By Rees Linn

Second half goals from Brek Shea and Jackson secured a 2-0 win against the Columbus Crew at Pizza Hut Park on Saturday. The win is Dallas’s third on the trot and puts them just one point behind first place LA in the Western Conference standings with a game in-hand.

While not completely dominant, Dallas maintained a slight edge in terms of possession and chance creation despite the defensive discipline of Columbus, but the visitors did well to crowd out the Dallas attack once the ball crossed the halfway line while also creating a few chances on the counter attack. Ugo Ihemelu had an especially difficult time with Tommy Heinemann in the opening half as the big striker seemed to catch the Dallas defender off guard on several occasions.  Lucky for Dallas, Kevin Hartman was on his game and was able to pull off several saves at pivotal moments in the match.

With Columbus displaying good defensive shape through the first half hour, the game gradually began to open up towards the end of the first half. The Dallas midfield did an excellent job of utilizing their man advantage in the middle to crowd out Emmanuel Ekpo and limit the visitor’s possession. Eventually, the pace of Shea, Chavez, and Jackson began to stretch the Columbus defense, and cracks began to appear in the defensive shell.

It was an overlapping run by Zach Loyd in the 58th minute that finally unlocked the Columbus defense. Loyd pushed the ball to the penalty spot for Chavez, whose shot was fumbled by Hesmer, and Shea powered in the rebound for his eighth goal of the season.

A goal to the good, and with Columbus pushing hard for an equalizer, Andrew Jacobson found Jackson on the break in the 76th minute, and the Brazilian coolly chipped Hesmer for Dallas’s second of the match.

It seemed fitting that Shea and Jackson provided the finishing touches on the night as the two wingers were instrumental in dismantling the visitor’s stubborn defense. Jackson’s insertion into the lineup since Castillo’s departure for the Under 20 World Cup has provided the pace and attacking prowess with the ability to possess the ball that Dallas has needed all season. If he’s able to demonstrate consistency, Hyndman will have no choice but to leave Jackson in the lineup even after Castillo returns. Marvin Chavez also had a one of his better matches of the season, and the Honduran is clearly starting to develop ideas about how to manipulate defenses and create channels for himself to run into. There’s no doubt that Chavez’s work rate is higher than any of the strikers who’ve played in the 4-5-1 formation over the last two years, which is exactly what Dallas needs at that position to help create space for other attackers.

For now, Hyndman seems to have stumbled onto a formula that is clearly capable of challenging even the likes of LA and Salt Lake for the MLS Cup, and with a trip to Rio Tinto on the horizon next weekend, Dallas will get another chance to prove their mettle.

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