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FC Dallas vs Toronto FC Preview, Scouting Report and Keys to the match

How FC Dallas can overcome Toronto.

MLS: Orlando City SC at Toronto FC John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

FC Dallas travels to enemy territory this week to take on Toronto FC. Toronto has only 10 points this season with just three wins, sitting ninth in the Eastern Conference. They are coming off a 2-1 win against Orlando City. After a disappointing 2-2 home draw against Vancouver last week, Dallas comes into the match tied for 3rd in the Western Conference with Portland, on 17 points. Dallas leads the league in draws with 5 so far, followed by…Vancouver, ugh.

Formation - 5-4-1

It feels like a case of déjà vu when watching Toronto’s early season struggles play out. Much like Dallas last year, Toronto sacrificed the first few games of the regular season to focus on the difficult task of traveling all over North America, trying to win the Champions league. As the darlings of MLS, Toronto came oh-so-close to finishing the deal, but ultimately tripped in the championship game. Since then, they have had a hard time flipping the switch back to MLS play. Although they have improved their results in their last five matches, they have proved that the CCL hangover is real.

Of course, losing basically all your normal center backs to injury certainly doesn’t help matters either. Desperate measures have arrived when Michael Bradley is moved into the back line - which happened a few weeks ago. Along with the CB losses, Toronto have been without hitman Jozy Altidore and had a few games without Victor Vazquez as well. Vazquez and Bradley are back now, as well as Sebastian Giovinco, who returns from suspension. This match will be as full strength as Toronto has been in quite a while.

We can expect Toronto to try to hold possession; which, fine, works for Dallas. Having a healthy Mauro and pacey wingers means Dallas can counter to their heart’s content. But it won’t be a cakewalk having to deal with Vazquez and Giovinco roaming around on the attack. I expect Dallas to keep Carlos Gruezo very deep in midfield, to cover the space between the lines. Speaking of defense, Reto Zeigler returns from his own suspension (feeling secure of his starting place) to help Dallas lock down the back line. Giovinco is a tricky (and whiney) customer, but with no Altidore to pressure the center backs, containing him in space will come down to solid communication between the CB’s and midfield.

Key Matchup

Kellyn Acosta vs Victor Vazquez - Last season, one could make the argument that Victor Vazquez was the most important player for Toronto FC. He had 16 assists and 8 goals for the champions, an instrumental player in Toronto developing such a devastatingly effective attack. But this season, he has been slowed by injuries, both to himself and the supporting cast in Toronto. If he is back to full strength, Dallas will be up against one of the best creator’s in the league. I often wondered if it helps Dallas to have Mauro Diaz in practice, as our team rarely comes up against players that are even in the same stratosphere of talent and creativity. This game is a test of that, so to speak, because Vazquez qualifies as one of those rare players. It will fall on the midfielders to track Vazquez, whichever one doesn’t have Giovinco, and contain his impact.

Three Keys

1. Mental Fortitude – Cliché, but hear me out. Dallas has drawn way too many games that they should have won. Last week was a real downer. After a while, those kinds of results can start to weigh on a team. Dallas must be mentally strong to break the cycle of draws in order to rebound from poor results.

2. Rebuild the Defense – Not from a personnel standpoint, but again, from a mental standpoint. Consistency in personnel at the back leads to a strong defense. Even if it were just one game lost, rebuilding the consistency with the starters will rebuild confidence in the team.

3. Cannon Shot – Come on, you didn’t think I was going to forget Reggie this week? His goal was tremendous. The one thing Hernan Grana brought last year that has been missed this year was an attacking mindset from right back. Reggie is a better player than Grana, but hasn’t shown as much in the attack, until said goal. However, every game he grows a bit more confident, a bit more attack-minded. That is great for his personal development and adds more diversity to the team attack. Keep it up young gun.

Well, so much for moving past last season’s struggles. I was starting to think we had turned a corner and then – BAM – sucker punched in the gut. I don’t believe Toronto is as bad as their record, and I do think last game was a bit fluke-ish (come on, an own goal and literal last second penalty), but I struggle to see FC Dallas winning up in Canada. Sadly, I think a draw is the best we can hope for. Final of 1-1 is the call from me.