Earlier we gave you a quick scouting report of what the Timbers do well on the field and now we shall go into ways that FC Dallas can advance from this series to their second MLS Cup trip.
1. Force Nagbe to play back
We all know that Darlington Nagbe loves to score on Dallas. This is one of those series where I would love nothing more than to see someone like a Kellyn Acosta be the duct tape on Nagbe.
In the July meeting in Frisco, Nagbe was a total ghost on the field as Acosta and Victor Ulloa shadowed him the entire 78 minutes that he was on the field. By limiting his play on the ball, Portland wasn't able to push a lot of passes forward in their attack and when they did the Dallas defense was able to shut things down quickly.
Nagbe is still going to be centrally key to what Portland tries to do in this series. If Dallas is able to contain where his passing lanes go to, it keeps the defense from being under constant pressure. Back in April, Nagbe was able to pass forward with relative ease against the Dallas defense, which helped lead to a 3-1 Timbers win. In July, a lot of Nagbe's passes were back to his defense and not forward. The more Dallas is able to do that, the better.
2. Contain Chara's ability to get to Diaz
On the flip side, Dallas needs Mauro Diaz to be upright as much as possible in this series. We know Portland will likely put Diego Chara on him as much as they can to limit what he does for the Dallas attack. In July, when Dallas was pushing forward well with numbers in the attack, it forced Chara to sit back further in the midfield. When he has the freedom not to do that, he can clog up the midfield passing lanes, thus limiting what someone like Diaz is able to do.
A lot of this could come down to how well Ulloa plays in the midfield. If Ulloa can release the pressure on Diaz by finding him with smart and simple passes, Diaz will be able to open the field up more for guys like Fabian Castillo and Michael Barrios.
3. Go with pace and go on the counter
Speaking of those passing lanes going forward, we know the success for Dallas is on the counter attack in the wings. Barrios and Castillo ran all over the Timbers back in that July meeting and a lot of the big plays came on the counter attack.
This is the bread and butter for Dallas, quite possibly more so on the road as they look to not give up a ton to the Timbers in this first leg on Sunday. Portland does not have the legs to stay with Castillo or Barrios.
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There are likely more ways that FCD can advance over Portland. What are some things you are looking out for this weekend in the first leg? Any players you want to see step up?