How FC Dallas Can Topple Powerhouse Pachuca in CCL Semifinals

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FRISCO, TX - FEBRUARY 23: FC Dallas defender Matt Hedges (#24) heads the ball out of the box during the CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinal match between CD Arabe Unido and FC Dallas on February 23, 2017, at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, TX. FC Dallas won the game 4-0. (Photo by Matthew Visinsky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

FC Dallas hosts C.F. Pachuca in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals on Wednesday evening. Given Pachuca’s pedigree, both in Liga MX and in the CONCACAF Champions League, they will enter this contest as the clear favorite. The odds may be against Dallas, but Oscar Pareja’s double-winning side is talented enough to prevail. They can topple powerhouse Pachuca and earn a place in the CCL final if they can accomplish the following feats.

How FC Dallas Can Topple Powerhouse Pachuca

Forget History

C.F. Pachuca and Liga MX can claim all of the history and complete domination in CONCACAF club competitions. Pachuca won the 2002, 2007, and 2008 CONCACAF Champions Cup and the 2009-2010 Champions League. Teams from Liga MX have won every CONCACAF Champions League trophy, plus 24 Champions Cups, the prior format of the tournament. The last MLS team to lift a CONCACAF trophy was the LA Galaxy, who won the Champions Cup in 2000. FC Dallas has only qualified for the Champions League on one other occasion, in 2011. FC Dallas’s first feat will be to get over any inferiority complex and believe they belong on the pitch with their Mexican opposition.

Expose Pachuca’s Stingy Defense in Dallas

Pachuca has the best defensive unit in Liga MX. They have  conceded only 7 goals in 9 matches of the 2017 Clausura. Oscar Pareja’s side is not short on firepower though. FC Dallas can score from almost every position on the field.

They have recently employed a potent 4-4-2 formation led by the dangerous combination of Maxi Urruti and Cristian Colmán. It would be a mistake to stray substantially from that and play a conservative lineup since they must score goals and leave Toyota Stadium with a lead on Wednesday night. A 1-0 scoreline would be a good outcome in the first leg. A 2-0 scoreline would be a dream result and send them to Estadio Hidalgo with a proper chance to advance.

A Star Player Must Deliver A Star Performance in the Second Leg

FC Dallas has plenty of stars to lean on in this two legged tie even with Mauro Díaz sidelined : Kellyn Acosta, Matt Hedges, Carlos Gruezo, and Javier Morales. One of these players will need to rise above the rest and have a performance worthy of carrying his team into the final. Can Matt Hedges and Walker Zimmerman shut up shop in the return leg to preserve a first leg advantage? Can Kellyn Acosta continue his red-hot early season form and net a decisive goal? Can Javier Morales use his Champions League experience and veteran guile to unlock Pachuca’s defense? One or more of these players will have to make their mark if Dallas is to survive their trip to Mexico, and leave victorious.

Many label the 2017 vintage of FC Dallas as the best team in MLS. Óscar Pareja has added talent and depth to a roster already chock-full of South American maestros and homegrown heroes. Will this be the year an MLS team can finally break the CONCACAF Champions League hex? The first leg of the semifinal meeting between FC Dallas and Pachuca is on Wednesday, March 15th at 8pm Eastern. The second leg will decide a winner on Tuesday, April 4th at 10pm ET.

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