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Three keys for the Dynamo against Toronto FC

The Dynamo run into the hottest team in the league this weekend.

Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

1. Get wide

As of this moment, Toronto FC are the only team in MLS that plays as a 4-4-2 diamond formation, although Seattle and Orlando could make the switch sooner rather than later. They use this formation to both get Sebastian Giovinco in a position to do the most possible damage (second striker) and to get as many offensive talents as possible on the field. It's worked to perfection over the last few weeks — although they did play a 5-3-2 against New England last week — and they've won four straight matches.

The pure amount of attackers Greg Vanney has at his disposal rivals that of any other team in the league: Giovinco, Jozy Altidore, Tosaint Ricketts, Jay Chapman, Marky Delgado, Jonathan Osorio, the injured Daniel Lovitz, Tsubasa Endoh, Mo Babouli, and Jordan Hamilton all have had roles in various places in the attack this season, and this isn't even mentioning their other starting-caliber midfielders: Michael Bradley, Benoit Cheyrou, and Will Johnson (who is currently injured).

The wealth of talent TFC have is undeniable, but there is a way to exploit the 4-4-2 diamond: Use the width of the field to isolate the full-backs and get opportunities on goal via the flanks.

In the diamond formation, the players who would be playing on the wings — in TFC's case, that will likely be Endoh and Osorio, although it's hard to predict — are usually told to stay closer to their midfield teammates in order to make sure that the No. 6 of the formation (Bradley or Chapman) isn't overrun. Endoh does have a habit of staying closer to the touchline when TFC have the ball in advanced positions, but on defense and in simple possession, he positions himself centrally.

The formation is narrow, so the obvious solution is to get players closer to the touchline and isolate themselves against a stranded full-back (Steven Beitashour and Justin Morrow, probably). The Dynamo usually aren't great at doing this — surprise, surprise — but Wade Barrett has to know that this is how to beat them.

And sometimes, a good offense is the best defense.

2. Cover everyone

When playing against a team that has a player like Giovinco, the tendency is to focus all attention on him. Teams often devote players solely to the one star player, and take the risk of leaving other players open. That's one of the reasons why Luis Suarez scores so many goals for Barcelona, and it's partially why Klay Thompson has developed himself into a superstar.

Granted, Giovinco and Lionel Messi and Stephen Curry all warrant this kind of special attention, but it's important not to go too far with it.

So, the Dynamo have to make sure that while they concentrate on stopping the Atomic Ant, they also remember to cover the other talented players TFC have. Because when they get so many players forward and into central areas, you can't afford to let one go:

Toronto put more pressure on the central channels than any other team in the league. Collen Warner and whoever the center backs are will have to be on top of their game.

3. Long-shots

Sebastian Giovinco takes a lot of shotsHe's not always particularly efficient, but he takes a large quantity of them. He leads the league in shots per game by a large margin with 6.5 — David Villa is the closest with 5.3 — and he's put the most on target, with 2.3 per game. He's hit more posts than anyone, and, of course, he leads MLS with 15 goals.

This is actually one of his shot charts:

Stay on your toes, defenders. Close him down around the box and force him to lay it off, or else he can and will kill you.