One player Real Monarchs should be paying attention to
The obvious answer to this is Kharlton Belmar. 3 goals in 2 games (2 of which came against opener vs Monarchs), the kid can finish. But what makes him especially dangerous is his near inhuman speed. It helps him constantly badger the backline and pressure the opposing keeper. And with 6 days between games he should be ready to lead the attack again on Wednesday night.
I'm going to have to go with defensive errors at the moment. Going back to the last preseason match and T2's first two games of this season opponents have only managed to score one goal against. The blazing fast and high pressuring attack makes up for it, but youthful defenders make silly errors. And in the first two games, each goal was given up due to some defensive issues. Monarch's first goal came when Rennico Clarke slipped on the grass and the free ball was pounced on for a goal. And against Sacramento Republic their goal came with a little confusion between the two centerbacks crashing down on the one attacker who was able to get past both of them and pass the ball off to a wide open attacker. The result is no clean sheets for this team, but it is only two games in so we'll see how much they improve this year.
Speed. At both ends of the pitch this team has speed to spare. And they have done well to utilize that. Outside backs Andy Thoma and Taylor Peay have done well to use their speed to get up the pitch, burn defenders, and assist in the attack. With the likes of Kharlton Belmar, Rundell Winchester, and Schillo Tshuma their speed allows them to press high up the pitch and steal or recover the ball well in the opposing half. And should the defense or keeper send a long ball over the top these guys have the ability to run pretty much anything down and challenge for it. And these kids turn these opportunities into goals. So it makes for some real exciting soccer to watch.
Bonus: Best guess at a Starting XI
(4-2-3-1) J. Gleeson; A. Thoma, A. Manning, R. Clarke, T. Peay; N. Besler, B. Gavin; R. Winchester, Fatawu, S. Tshuma; K. Belmar
And, as usual, the reverse, answered by yours truly.
Who's one player Timbers 2 should be paying attention to?
Emery Welshman, who, to this point, has been known more for his once being drafted by Toronto FC, is just coming off of an international break with Guyana. Likely to play out wide, Welshman saw substantial minutes in Real Salt Lake's preseason on the flank and performed reasonably well. With many unknowns in the team, Welshman represents something of a known quantity. Portland will want to watch for his speed and his finishing.
Other names to keep an ear to the ground for: Lucas Baldin, a smart-passing possession midfielder; Riley McGovern, an apparently solid full back.
What's your biggest weakness?
Tactical and positional uncertainty are probably the biggest things facing Real Monarchs, just as they're still things RSL is coping with. Both teams are sussing out their implementations of the 4-3-3, but Monarchs has an advantage in that they've never done anything different. This is, I imagine, something most teams are finding difficult. Until then, it'll be difficult to pinpoint one or two weaknesses that are systemic to the team.
What's your biggest strength?
A number of players with the first team will almost certainly be getting minutes in this one, including the sparky Sebastian Saucedo. He's marked by creativity in possession, and that will be part of the team's tactical focus: He's a player that wants to — or almost demands to by his ability and style — be the driving force behind the attack. He's slight, but he could be playing centrally from the start.
Lalo Fernandez*; Boyd Okwuonu*, Aaron Maund*, Phanuel Kavita*, Riley McGovern; Fito Ovalle*, Tyler Arnone, Lucas Baldin; Emery Welshman, Sebastian Saucedo*, Ricardo Velazco