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Eastern Conference Championship

FC Dallas coach Oscar Pareja's surprise tactical change nearly pays off in loss to Seattle

For much of FC Dallas' daunting trip to Seattle, it appeared as though head coach Oscar Pareja's tactical changes would be just the tonic for his shorthanded side.

Unfortunately, they couldn't quite close it out, dropping a late 2-1 result that puts them at 0-4-1 in their last five games after a hot start to 2014.

Pareja lined his side up in a 4-4-2 diamond formation and put a number of players into the lineup in new positions in an attempt to clog the middle of the field and establish more control over the match.

It all looked to be going to plan when a first half penalty – drawn by Blas Pérez and converted by Michel – gave Dallas the lead, but things began to break down for the visitors as the game approached 60 minutes, and the eventual goal came in the 62nd minute from Lamar Neagle

"We wanted to keep the good shape we were playing with in the first half and at the same time try to play through their lines of defense," Dallas midfielder Andrew Jacobson explained to reporters. "They attacked very well but our guys fought hard, we just couldn’t hold on at the end there."

The final dagger came late, with former Dallas forward Kenny Cooper making a dangerous run through the middle of the Dallas defense to finish off a pass from Obafemi Martins in the 88th minute.

“We deserved more, but that is the game,” Pareja told reporters.

Already dealing with long- and medium-term injuries to Kellyn Acosta and Mauro Díaz, respectively, a red card to JeVaughn Watson in Saturday's loss to the New York Red Bulls kept the midfielder out of Wednesday's lineup, causing Pareja further selection headaches. Add in another road game in San Jose on Saturday, and Pareja and his staff had little choice but to aggressively rotate the squad.

The formation change proved the big surprise as Dallas had almost exclusively used a 4-2-3-1 formation in 2014. For much of the match, the new wrinkle allowed Dallas to have a physical presence in the middle of the park.

Adam Moffat got a rare start and 90 minutes of game time, while he and Jacobson played wider roles, ahead of midfield destroyer Hendry Thomas. Those changes in turn forced set-piece specialist Michel, usually part of a two-man defensive midfield, to his secondary position at left back.

For Pareja, though, it was all par for the course.

“We played the players who belong to the team, the boys who are healthy and the boys who can come in and do the job,” he said. “With the formation we prepare the game depending on the opposite team, too.”