THE FORMATIONS: Montreal Impact started the 2014 season in Dallas and their starting XI featured few surprises as new coach Frank Klopas stuck to the 4-3-3 shape his team adopted in pre-season.
Klopas had a number of suspensions and injuries to deal with, including star man Marco Di Vaio, so he named Andrew Wenger up top and pushed Houssoun Camara into the centre-back position. First round draft pick Eric Miller got his first MLS start at right back.
Collen Warner joined Hernan Bernadello in central midfield with Felipe playing as the attacking central midfield.
FC Dallas had a number of injuries themselves with goalkeeper Raul Fernandez and key defenders George John and Zach Loyd missing.
New coach Oscar Pareja also adopted a 4-3-3 system that he was familiar with in Colorado.
THE GAME: This was a very entertaining match full of tactical adjustments and questionable referee decisions that played a significant impact on the final result. Montreal's 4-3-3 turns into a 4-2-3-1 on the counter attack but also, importantly, when they press and this was the theme of the game early. Klopas had his front four press intelligently and the young backline of Dallas, combined with opening day nerves as Pareja later admitted, made it a very difficult opening 15 minutes for the home team.
Montreal started on the front foot, causing many turnovers deep in their opponents half. The wide players of Dallas can be electrifying in attack but have little will to defend their flanks, putting pressure on the central midfield pair to carry the load. This works well if the playmaker, in this case Mauro Diaz, cuts in and takes away Hernan Bernadello's distribution but this didn't happen. With Bernadello free, Felipe had license to move forward and this is how Montreal opened the scoring in the 10th minute. Justin Mapp, rightfully so, got the headlines for the goal, cutting in brilliantly on the right, beating three defenders, and supplying scorer Sanna Nyassi at the back post, but it was Felipe's run forward that forced the back four to shift over and leave Nyassi unmarked.
Montreal's dominance continued after the goal, with Bernadello running the show. The Argentine DP sent a long ball over the top for Andrew Wenger to run on to and his cross found Felipe who should have made it 2-0. Bernadello is a very important player for Montreal in this system, and as they play on the counter he is very good at supplying long-range passes to feet, rather than an easy square ball that keeps possession but does nothing for their attack.
With Montreal in control, Dallas rocked them back with an equalizer that was their first real threat on goal. A simple ball over the top wasn't cleared by Matteo Ferrari and Fabian Castillo got in behind to tap home.
It was the goal Dallas needed to calm down and for all of Montreal's good play to open the match they were now level.
THE TURNING POINT: Diaz will be an interesting player to watch for Dallas this season. With David Ferreira gone, he is now their playmaker. At 1-1 he started to get more touches on the ball and drift away from Bernadello. In the 23rd minute, he shuffled out to the right side and dribbled his way towards the box, facing up with Jeb Brovsky. The left back showed him inside, a route Diaz accepted and as he got in front of Brovsky, the Impact man touched him and he went down. A penalty was awarded and it was very harsh. Blas Perez stepped up and blasted home. Montreal would spend the rest of the game behind.
The deficit was increased to 3-1 shortly after half-time when Diaz scored a brilliant free kick just outside the area after Bernadello had been deemed to handle the ball when he was turning away blocking a shot. Once again, the decision seemed very harsh.
THE POSITIVES: Impact would make it 3-2 later in the game when Wenger scored an outstanding header from a Felipe cross. It was a goal out of nothing and that is exactly what Montreal will need this season from Wenger, whether Di Vaio is playing or not.
Tactically, the midfield central three will cause opponents many problems this season if Bernadello and Felipe play at a high level all season. This is where they will be able to dictate a match's style. They can counter well and maintain possession, while also protecting the back four.
The introduction of new signing Santiago Gonzalez, at 3-2 after 68 minutes, was an exciting one for Montreal and showed some flexibility from Klopas. The Uruguayan was immediately pushed up front, to play just off Wenger, and the midfield turned into a diamond. It made the visitors narrower but this took away the desire of FC Dallas to stretch the game. Once again, Montreal dominated this stretch of the match but the score line within it failed to show that.
THE NEGATIVES: Both Dallas and Montreal faded badly last season after starting well so it is difficult to know just how good Dallas are this season but they certainly caused Montreal's back four some problems. The left side of Brovsky and Nyassi defensively were often exposed and Klopas had to put Miller there late in the game, bringing on Calum Mallace to play right back.
THE STAR MAN: For Dallas, it was, unquestionably, Diaz although Castillo had a very good game. Mapp was Montreal's best player and his pace and ball control caused Dallas issues throughout. It was no coincidence that both Castillo and Mapp played on the same flank, allowing each other to attack the full back in one-on-one situations.