FC Dallas Takes a Narrow Lead to Mexico in the CCL Semifinals

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DALLAS, UNITED STATES - MARCH 15: Brian Rodriguez of Pachuca and Maynor Figueroa vie for the ball during the semifinals first leg match between FC Dallas and Pachuca as part of the CONCACAF Champions League 2017 at Toyota Stadium on March 15, 2017 in Dallas, United States. (Photo by Omar Vega/LatinContent/Getty Images)

FC Dallas takes a narrow lead to Estadio Hidalgo on Tuesday, where they face Pachuca in the second leg of the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals. FC Dallas came from behind to earn a 2-1 victory at Toyota Stadium in the first leg. Kellyn Acosta scored a brilliant free kick winner in the 58th minute to give the advantage to the MLS side. Pachuca grabbed an early, valuable away goal however.

FC Dallas Takes a Narrow Lead to Mexico in the CCL Semifinals

Pachuca Struggling Recently in Liga MX

Pachuca has fallen from first place in Liga MX to fifth place since these two teams met on March 15th. The weekend after Pachuca lost in Dallas, they were walloped by Querétaro 3-0 away from home. Pachuca also recently drew 0-0 at Estadio Hidalgo to 17th place Puebla. One question for Tuesday’s match is “Which Pachuca team will show up?” Will it be the marauding side that thrashed Deportivo Saprissa 4-0 in the CCL quarterfinals? Or will it be the toothless Pachuca that couldn’t top the second-to-last place team in Liga MX?

FC Dallas Preparing South of the Border

The FC Dallas squad and technical staff have been in Puebla, Mexico for the past week preparing for the match. The recent international break allowed FC Dallas to travel and acclimate to the altitude and the environment. Pachuca sits about 50 miles northeast of Mexico City, and lies at an altitude of nearly 8,000 feet above sea level. FC Dallas played a 60 minute practice match against Puebla’s reserve team on Friday, winning 2-0.

The FC Dallas eleven that started the match looked almost exactly like the lineup that featured in the first leg against Pachuca. They also played in the same 4-4-2 formation that has been used in most of their 2017 matches. Some think they should go with a more conservative one striker formation on Tuesday. There’s no indication however that they’ll depart from what’s worked for them so far.

Big Bright Texas Stars

The Texas club’s stars have to shine brightly on Tuesday night for FC Dallas to reach the CONCACAF Champions League final. Pachuca must score to advance, and are certain to heap pressure on Dallas’ defense early. Walker Zimmerman, fresh off another national team call up, needs to pair perfectly with Hedges to preserve FC Dallas’ slender margin. Óscar Pareja isn’t looking only to shut things down in Mexico. The head coach, who recently inked a long term contract extension, wants his team to play with personality in this critical fixture.

“We understand pretty much what we are going to face…I want (the players) to understand that the game needs character, needs personality…as a group we can win it the way we did in Dallas.” [FC Dallas] 

Playing solid defense should be priority one, but FC Dallas will need more than that and Pareja knows it. Maxi Urruti and Kellyn Acosta are the obvious candidates to be difference makers on offense. With Pachuca going forward, FC Dallas should have opportunities on the counter. Could Javier Morales, who is chock-full of Champions League experience, also play a role and help to unlock Pachuca’s defense? One thing is certain. FC Dallas will need more than one star to shine brightly on Tuesday to get safe passage to the final.

Prediction and Viewing

FC Dallas will concede a goal in the first half, but will also find a late equalizer and earn a 1-1 draw. They’ll win 3-2 on aggregate and progress to the final of the CONCACAF Champions League. This semifinal matchup will be played at 10pm ET on Tuesday and can be viewed on Univision Deportes or Facebook Live.

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