PORTLAND, Ore. — “The competition is going to show us our strengths and weaknesses,” FC Dallas coach Shellas Hyndman said after the match. He was right. Against an AIK team that is still a month-and-a-half away from their season opener, Dallas looked like the side that needed more fine-tuning despite the fact the match ended 0-0.
It was the first of a three-match set in Portland, where Dallas is competing in the Timbers’ 2013 preseason tournament. The San Jose Earthquakes are also part in the four-team competition that will take place over the next week.
The Stockholm-based “visitors” nearly went behind early, allowing Dallas big man Blas Pérez an open chance from the middle of the penalty area in the 16th minute. Goalkeeper Ivan Turina came off his line to block what would prove Dallas’s best change of the match.
The next 74 minutes laid out what Dallas needs to solve before the team opens the season March 2 against Colorado. Despite a respectable scoreline, most of Sunday highlighted areas Hyndman has to address:
- The team is clearly struggling with a new system. Having typically being a five midfielder, one forward team in recent seasons, Dallas’s glut of No.9s is inspiring a shift to a two-striker system. It’s still a work in progress.
- Kenny Cooper and Blas Pérez got the call on Sunday. Eric Hassli didn’t dress. Cooper played a slightly more advanced role, often shading right. Perez leaned left and was more withdrawn, if only slightly. David Ferreira sat behind the duo in the middle of a 4-1-3-2 formation that at times became a diamond. For the most part, Jackson and Fabio Castillo played very wide. Trialist Michel served the first half in defensive midfield before giving way to Andrew Jacobson.
- The major problem this setup presented was in middle. The gap between Ferreira and his defensive midfielder was often too much. “I thought we gave up a little too much in the center of midfield,” Hyndman said after the match, “but I was expecting that.” It’s preseason, it’s a work in progress, and now he knows.
- We’ll double back on Dallas’s formation issues tomorrow.
- Dallas’s fullbacks also struggled, but since we’re talking about Zach Loyd and Jair Benítez, you have to think the duo will come around to their normal level of performance. Loyd looked shakey covering runs behind him from AIK left midfielder Nabil Bahoui while Benítez was forced into too many negative balls from the pressure for Daniel Gustavsson.
Positives for Dallas:
- George John and Matt Hedges were strong in defense. John showed some midseason feistiness in a first half confrontation with forward Viiktor Lundberg while Hedges’s all-around game continued to show the promise of the partnership.
- Both Chris Seitz and Peruvian international Raul Fernandez were strong in goal. Hyndman was specifically complimentary about Fernandez, one of the team’s offseason acquisitions.
- Jackson was active at right midfield, proving valuable both pushing onto left back Nils-Eric Johansson and coming in to help in the middle. His second half pass to Cooper’s feet at eight yards out should have been a goal (Cooper struggled to get it out of feet before the shot was blocked).
Heading into the their final UEFA Champions League Group B game, Manchester United hold their destiny in their own hands, but any slip-up could mean it’s Europa League on Thursday nights for Louis Van Gaal‘s men.
[ MORE: Champions League standings ]
The Red Devils would have advanced to the knockout stage with a victory over third-place PSV Eindhoven on Wednesday, but slumped to an ugly 0-0 draw instead.
[ MORE: Three things we learned from Man United 0-0 PSV ]
So, here’s all of the scenarios for the final matchday of the group stage, away to Wolfsburg, in which United would advance to the round of 16 advance:
- A Man United win will see Man United finish top of Group B
- A Man United draw, coupled with a PSV draw or loss (vs. CSKA Moscow), will see Man United finish second in Group B
- A Man United draw, coupled with a PSV victory, will see Man United finish third in Group B
- A Man United loss, coupled with a PSV loss, will see Man United finish second in Group B
- A Man United loss by more than one goal, coupled with a PSV draw, would see Man United finish third in Group B
- A Man United loss, coupled with a PSV win, would see Man United finish third in Group B
[ MORE: Champions League schedule ]
There are your scenarios for Man United as it’s pretty simple to break it down: Win, and they go through. Fail to win, and their fate is completely in the hands of PSV.
The Foxes are top of the Premier League and are led by a surging Jamie Vardy but how long can they keep shocking the world?
With six tough games coming up between now and the start of 2016, Claudio Ranieri‘s men will be pushed to their limit but so far this season they’ve been sensational and Vardy has equaled Manchester United legend Ruud van Nistelrooy’s record of scoring in 10-straight PL games.
[ MORE: Full PST Extra archive ]
Can he make it 11 in a row on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via Live Extra) when United visit the King Power Stadium? As for the Red Devils, they sit in second place and are just one point behind the flying Foxes’. Louis Van Gaal‘s men have certainly flown under the radar so far and our churning out wins at an impressive rate.
Jenna Corrado and I discuss that and more in the latest edition of PST Extra. Click play on the video above to see our chat in full.
Rog and Davo revel in another chapter of the Leicester City fairytale, break down Liverpool’s shock dismantling of Manchester City and discuss Arsenal’s slip against West Brom.
Listen to the latest pod by clicking play below.
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Joe Hart was forced to leave Manchester City’s 1-0 defeat to Juventus in UEFA Champions League play on Wednesday due to a hamstring injury, which he seemed to incur while making a spectacular one-on-one kick-save late in the second half.
[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]
Man City manager Manuel Pellegrini confirmed after the game that Hart’s injury is indeed a hamstring issue, and went on to say that he would need further tests once the team arrives back in Manchester to determine the severity and how long, if at all, City and England’s no. 1 would be out of action.
Man City, currently third in the Premier League on 26 points, will host eighth-place Southampton at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday (Watch live at 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra).