Mitch asks: Who of the newcomers is going to contribute the most?
Newcomers are always a question, Mitch, especially when it is still preseason. From what we have discerned, it looks like several could contribute right away. Of those, most will likely contribute with the Real Monarchs, but Elias Vasquez seems to be a newcomer that will earn some serious first-team minutes. After the departure of Carlos Salcedo, Vasquez will likely fill that role as third in center back depth. With Jamison Olave as the main starter for RSL, his age will constrict his minutes - especially on turf. Therefore, it is likely that Vasquez will be the newcomer that will contribute the most to RSL.
Clint asks: What is your pick for starting line-up / formation opening day?
Clint, The starting roster seems to pretty much set in stone. Our best guess for the starting line-up on opening day will be the line-up frequently seen in the second half of RSL preseason matches. For the first match we should expect RSL to set up in a 4-3-3 formation: (From Left to Right) Rimando; Philips, Schuler, Olave, Beltran; Gil, Beckerman, Morales; Garcia, Saborio, Jaime.
Rich asks: Can a three man midfield of Kyle Beckerman, Javier Morales, and Luis Gil work defensively? (Especially with Philips attacking?)
While it might be hard to believe, Rich, the 4-3-3 formation is very versatile both offensive and defensively. Not only does the formation allow three attacking threats on the field at once, when the team transitions to defense it looks a lot more like a 4-2-3-1. What this means is that the wingers drop deeper into the midfield to provide another line of defense as well as the passing option for quick break-aways. While Gil is more an offensive minded player, he will likely function as more of a creative box-to-box midfielder. In addition, the 4-3-3 can also be more defensive while attacking because instead of having both outside backs overlap in the attack - like in a traditional 4-4-2 - the non-attacking outside back slides in next to the center backs - essentially creating a three man backline. So in short, we believe that the three man midfield will provide just as much defensive strength as traditionally seen with RSL.
Zach asks: Do you see Luke Mulholland or Luis Gil getting more starts this year with the new 4-3-3 formation?
Both Mulholland and Gil are talented players, Zach, but from the offseason rumors coming out of the official RSL office, it appears that Gil will most likely be favored over Mulholland in the new formation. The presentation of the number 10 kit to Gil was more than just symbolic; it was a gesture by the coaching staff that they are putting a lot of faith in the young midfielder. With that said, Gil will also likely miss out on some matches due to national team duty - both as part of Olympic Qualifying and for friendlies. So during these stretches it is likely that Mulholland will fill in for Gil. With all the changes for RSL this season, expect Gil to regain his starting status and Mulholland become a difference maker off the bench.
Charles Barnard, analytics guy, asks: What position do you think we will see Jordan Allen play at the most this season?
In an earlier conversation with RSL technical director Craig Waibel, we learned that Jordan Allen's position is still undecided. This is not because of a lack of skill, quite the opposite. "Allen is a young versatile player, capable of playing a variety of positions," Waibel stated. With the injury to Joao Plata, however, he will likely provide depth on the right wing. His time will likely be limited with the senior squad still, but we could see him as an attacking option for the Real Monarchs. What is certain though is that Allen will be deployed on the right side of the pitch - whether it be in the attack, midfield, or defense.
Mr. Andy Gaff asks: Which RSL players should I put on my fantasy team? Which new, fresh player should I include? Who can we anticipate starting?
As an avid MLS Fantasy participant for the past two seasons - this will be my third - I am more than happy to share some fantasy advice with you, Andy. If you want a constant contributor, Kyle Beckerman remains - season in and season out - one of the highest rated RSL player - constantly finding himself as one of the top midfield players in the league. For fresh faces, Demar Philips looks to have a lot of potential. As a defender that often finds himself in the attacking third, Philips could likely get you some extra points off assists and goals. For the start of the season expect Rimando, Philips, Schuler, Olave, Beltran, Gil, Beckerman, Morales, Garcia, Saborio, and Jaime to start (replace Garcia with a healthy Plata as necessary), but this is still very much fluid being preseason and up to the coaching staff's discretion.
Cameron Fowler asks: Which player will bounce back and forth the most from the Monarchs to RSL (to be used by both, in essence)?
With the final rules not yet out because of the CBA negotiations, it is hard to say Cameron. Most likely it will be very limited movement. In my opinion - and this is just conjecture - I believe that the model to be used by the MLS will be similar to that used in the National Hockey League. The only movement that I expect to see between the parent and USL reserve clubs will be in regards to injury - where players will be placed on an injury waiver to open up a roster spot on the senior team for their replacement. After the senior player is fit, I expect to see the reserve player move back to the USL side. In other words, I do not expect many - if any - players to be bounced between senior and USL rosters.