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FC Dallas vs Sporting KC: What we learned

The game plan was executed perfectly on Saturday.

MLS: Sporting KC at FC Dallas Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday night was almost too good to be true for FC Dallas fans. The 1-0 win over Sporting Kansas City brought up a lot of discussions and thoughts. At the same time, it also offered up an idea of how well this team can be when they play to a plan.

Here are a couple big takeaways I got from Saturday’s win.

Execution to perfection

Post game press conferences are always intriguing to me. Hearing what Oscar Pareja has to say following any type of win can be informative but also sometimes entertaining depending on the night. Saturday’s win brought out a different side of Pareja. With each pressing question from the media, Pareja appeared to get more excited, almost giddy, about the way his team executed the game plan on the night.

To be fair, they did. Carlos Gruezo had a MVP-type performance in the midfield as he locked down Benny Feilhaber. Kellyn Acosta had a quiet night offensively, but his task of locking down Roger Espinoza was quite good. Throw in how Matt Hedges and Walker Zimmerman handled Dom Dwyer around the penalty box and it was an all around good defensive night.

But the real game plan in the attack was done very well too. Pareja went back to a 4-2-3-1 with Javier Morales getting the start once again. I know some of you weren’t overly impressed with his night, or even Roland Lamah’s night but both were really effective in what they were able to bring to the field.

Let’s focus on Lamah for a moment. We’ve all been pretty critical of his play as of late on this site but this may have been his best performance by a landslide. The move to the right side was largely part of that. I know that competes with Michael Barrios but this may be where we need to see Lamah moving forward. Pareja mentioned that he didn’t want Lamah on the left as it didn’t flow properly with Morales in the middle. But having him on the right side would. And to be fair, it definitely did.

Lamah was more active on the night and also better defensively too. The goals didn’t come on his three shots in the penalty box but seeing him be more active inside the penalty area is a real positive in my book.

Smart changes in the lineup

Going back to the formation in this one for a moment. Pareja was wise to go to the 4-2-3-1 in this one. The simple explanation is that by adding in another central midfielder in Morales, it limited what SKC was able to do in the middle of the field.

On the flip side, there were moments that the formation almost resembled a 4-3-3, with Maxi Urruti, Tesho Akindele and Lamah playing the role up front. Because of that, we saw a lot of overlapping play between those three and more space up front for Hernan Grana and Maynor Figueroa to get forward.

In the end, that extra space was enough as Figueroa was able to get on the end of a Barrios cross to get the game-winner.

Pareja is going to constantly tweak his lineup, and while that may frustrate some folks, it is what we want in a manager. I’m willing to bet that this coming week against Portland, we’ll see a slightly different look to take on the Timbers and their vaulted front six that has been terrorizing the league so far. I’m sure that is a challenge Pareja will gladly take on too.

Other observations

Possession edge means little. Do we really care about a 60-40 split in the possession? Or more specifically in this case a 61-38 split? I know I don’t. This is the way Pareja wants this group to play right now without Mauro Diaz. The sit back and defend, and counter like crazy. Also, when you have a midfield pair like Gruezo and Acosta, you can do this was ease as they are able to clog up so many passing lanes.

Grana on the night. I know last week I was a bit critical of Grana last week but he certainly had one if his best games yet.

Sporting will be tough down the stretch. I know it was a frustrating game for SKC fans but they still impressed me on the night. I will say as long as their defense stays healthy, particularly Ike Opara, they’ll be in the very thick of things in the West this season.