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Behind Enemy Lines: Scouting C.F. Pachuca

FC Dallas hosts Pachuca in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League Semifinals.

FC Dallas hosts Pachuca after earning a tough point with a reserve heavy lineup on the road against Sporting Kansas City.

Opportunistic Tuzos

Pachuca is coming off a huge 3-2 road win against Tijuana. Despite losing their star player to injury early into the game, “Los Tuzos” were able to score on a quick counter early in the second half. Pachuca, who is normally happy to sit back and play defense on the road, smelled “blood in the water”, and unleashed their suffocating press that is usually reserved for their home games.

With their star player not around to lead them, Pachuca turned to the “Dynamic Duo” of Jonathan Urretaviscaya and Franco Jara, who each had a goal and an assist in Pachuca’s first ever win at Tijuana.

Tijuana’s “Los Xolos”, who are known for their high powered offense, were unable to solve Pachuca’s defense, until the game was well out of reach.

Potential Line-up (4-4-2)

Pachuca suffered a potentially devastating loss, as star winger "Chucky" Lozano was injured in the teams last match against Tijuana and will miss a minimum of three weeks. So there will likely be a slight tinkering of their lineup, probably in the form of going with a 4-4-2 formation, as opposed to the more prefered 4-1-4-1 formation when “Chucky” is on the field.

GK: Oscar Perez; LB: Emmanuel Garcia; CB: Omar Gonzalez, Oscar Murillo; RB: Raul Lopez; CM: Erick Gutierrez, Jorge Hernandez; LM: Roberto Alvarado RM: Victor Guzman; ST: Jonathan Urretaviscaya, Franco Jara

Key Matchup

Kellyn Acosta vs. Jorge Hernandez

Make no mistake about it, Pachuca will be more than happy to leave Frisco with a 0-0 draw, fully confident they can win the series on their home soil. For Pachuca to achieve this, they must slow down FCD’s hot hand in the middle Kellyn Acosta.

Jorge Hernandez is often played as the lone Central Defensive Midfielder in Pachuca’s prefered 4-1-4-1 formation, and he is tasked with snuffing out opponents attacks before they ever get started. His role is very similar to FCD’s Carlos Gruezo, and if you remember SKC’s frustration in trying to get past Gruezo, then you have a hint at what Acosta could be in for. Jorge Hernandez’s importance to the Pachuca defense, is clearly evident in the fact that he is the only player to start every single game for Los Tuzos in 2017.

Acosta for his part, must keep his hot streak going. It is of the utmost importance that he help the FCD attack ignite at home, and find a way to gain 3 points in Frisco.

Three Keys to the Match

Transition Defense

Both teams have stout defenses, and both teams will be going all out to prevent the other team from gaining a single goal. Pachuca wants to go home with a 0-0 draw, if it can’t get a win, and FCD wants to avoid giving up a “Road Goal”.

Both teams also have excellent speed in the attacking third, and are both equally capable counter attackers. This game will likely be very tactical in nature to begin with, as both teams will give little quarter on the defensive 3rd, and look to catch the other team napping on a lightning quick counter.

Wing Play

We said it last weekend, and we’ll say it again, the wing players will be the key to this game. Pachuca likes to collapse all their defenders towards the center in front of goal, and force teams to go wide, happy to give up the cross or the long range shot. Pachuca is very good at this, as their 7 goals allowed in 11 games will attest.

Roland Lamah, Michael Barrios, and Hernan Grana will have ample space out to move out wide before the defense reacts to them. If FC Dallas is to solve the “Gordian Knot”, that is the Pachuca defense, then these players will have to be the ones to solve it.

For their part, Pachuca loves to initiate their counter attacks on the wings, as their wing players and strikers are all excellent individual attackers. Each of them adept at taking defenders on one-on-one, getting past them, and forcing other defenders to collapse on them, thus freeing up space for the other Pachuca attackers to pour through.

Set Piece Defending

Set Piece defending is a well known weakness of the home team. It is imperative that FCD limit Los Tuzos from gaining too many chances at set pieces near the goal. Los Tuzos are very athletic, and fast, so they are quite adept at scoring from set pieces.

Los Tuzos are really good at defending set pieces, and while not a weakness, they tend to give up a lot of them. Pachuca is an excellent set piece defending team, and would prefer to be able to set up their formidable defense whenever possible. They will gladly give up a set piece opportunity if it prevents any shot near goal. FCD will have to find a way to take advantage of all the set piece opportunities Pachuca will give them.