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  • Preview: TFC goes for three in Dallas


    ccs-54-140264009112_thumb.jpgComing off a couple of uplifting wins over the past week, Toronto FC find themselves in possession of the rarest of commodities -- momentum.

    TFC erased the stench of the awful 3-0 loss at Seattle April 30 by ringing off victories against FC Edmonton (expected) and Houston Dynamo (pleasant surprise). Now, Toronto heads off to Frisco, Texas for their first meeting with Davide Ferreira-less FC Dallas, who haven't seemed to skip a beat despite losing their talisman to a gruesome ankle injury.

    Dallas are a team with high expectations this season, coming off an MLS Cup appearance last November and looking forward to CONCACAF Champions League play for the first time. The loss of Ferreira is a big blow to the FCD attack, as the Colombian playmaker is one of a handful of MLS players who can make something out of almost nothing, but Dallas have shown that they can still cope without the reigning league MVP's considerable skills, sitting on a three-game unbeaten run.


    The venue itself is one of the places that TFC have yet to figure out, as evidenced by their overall 0-3-1 record at Pizza Hut Park. In fact, Toronto has yet to beat Dallas home or away since that joyous 4-0 victory on Father's Day 2007.

    To break that feeble streak, TFC will need more stellar performances from all over the park. On Saturday, it was Joao Plata and Richard Eckersley's coming out party, with the two wreaking havoc up and down the pitch for nearly 90 minutes. While it would be unfair to expect the same from the two newcomers on a game-by-game basis -- Aron Winter himself said that he wants to bring along 19-year-old Plata slowly, and temper expectations of him -- what we should be seeing is more consistency as each game progresses.

    Knowing Winter, he may keep Plata out of the starting XI just to throw everyone for a loop, and given that the Reds are in the midst of a grueling stretch, that may not be the worst of ideas.

    Eckersley, on the other hand, needs as much playing time as possible right now to get himself back into match fitness, so I would expect to see him suited up at right back for Toronto when the opening whistle is blown.

    Given that Dallas have couple of large, athletic centre backs on George John and Ugo Ihemelu, it may make sense for Winter to put Maicon Santos into the starting lineup as a forward, especially if Alan Gordon is still out. The speedy Fabian Castillo will likely start for FCD, so a mobile pairing at full back should be the best response from TFC, especially as Castillo has shown the ability to switch wings with relative ease. With that in mind, Mikael Yourassowsky would be the obvious yin to Eckersley's yang, with either Dicoy Wiliams or Nana Attakora (if healthy) pairing Adrian Cann in the middle of the backline.

    Will we see Javier Martina in this match? Winter is on record as being "disappointed" with his play recently, going so far as to leaving Martina off the 18-man roster entirely in the last match. That said, Martina's dynamic attacking play is a weapon that cannot be ignored against a skillful defending side like Dallas, and Winter has shown that he is willing to give players the chance to earn their spot back in training (see: Nick Soolsma), so if Martina has shown enough in practice, I think he's a good bet to replace Plata in the starting lineup (with the tiny Ecuadorean coming on in the second half to run at Dallas' defence).

    As for what Dallas will put out there tonight, their biggest threats will comes from the likes of Brek Shea -- who is unafraid to shoot from almost anywhere on the pitch, and has surprising mobility given his giraffe-like build -- the aforementioned Castillo, Ferreira's understudy Eric Avila, and Honduran Marvin Chavez.

    For FCD's reputation as a notoriously stingy team on defence, they're actually middle of the pack in the goals against department. In their four home matches so far, they've allowed four goals, so if Toronto can exploit the inevitable one or two mistakes that Dalas will make, they'll be able to come away with a positive result.

    FC Dallas v. Toronto FC

    Wednesday, May 11, 2011. 9:00pm EDT.

    Pizza Hut Park. Frisco, TX.

    Watch: GolTV Canada, MLS MatchDay Live

    Listen: Fan590.com

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