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Loving the left in a red organization

Despite their crimson jerseys, the Monarchs are continuing to show a definite tendency toward the left (side of the field)

MLS: 2018 Portraits USA TODAY Sports

Before moving on to talking about the Monarchs continuing success up and down the left side of the field, let’s take a few minutes and see how our conclusions about Justin Portillo’s place on the Monarchs played out in our second match and first at home.

Last week we noted that Justin plays as a defensive midfielder and concentrates his focus on the center of the field. His average position, noted by the green circle with the number 43, during the first match on the road in Tulsa was almost in the exact center of field as we noted with the following graphic. He is slight behind the half line and slightly shaded to the left.

Average Positions in Tulsa on 24 March 2018
OPTA and USLSoccer

For the first home match against Portland Timbers 2, Portillo is slightly further back but still in the center circle. Timbers 2 is a counter attacking team that has great team speed and loves to play long balls over the top unlike Tulsa. Portland has four players in the central midfield (indicated by green circles as they were the visitors) with the blue number 43 right in the middle of them near the inside edge of the center circle. Notice how wide and forward the two Timbers 2 wingers (19 and 53) are compared to the Tulsa wingers the week before. The two Monarch centerbacks, Nick Besler (13) and Michael Gallagher (53), had to move slightly wider to counter this leaving Portillo to have more to cover up the center. Of course, a early 2-0 lead made things much less tight for the Monarchs and forced Portland to press.

Average Positions in Rio Tinto on 31 March 2018
OPTA and USLSoccer

Justin made 56 passes to lead the Monarchs in Tulsa during the 3-2 victory on the road. Saturday at Rio Tinto the number went up to 72 passes to leave him with an average of 64 per 90 minutes and remain the team leader. Forced into a more defensive posture Portillo also saw the starting point of many passes move back into the Monarchs side of the field as he covered the center on top of the box.

Justin Portillo pass attempts on 31 March 2018
OPTA and USLSoccer

Once again many of unsuccessful passes were long, but the a strong tendency toward the left side of the field also emerges.

This tendency on the part of the Monarchs only becomes more obvious as we compare the changes to the average position between the first two matches. Pablo Ruiz (31), who is the other half of the two holding midfields is distinctly further out to the left. Kacher (46) and Ryden (52) are are out to the left while both Velasqez (55) and Hoffman (49) are shaded to the left side of the field. This is particularly noticeable when you compare the position of the two left backs, Danny Acosta (25) averaged a much more defensive and inner position before moving to right when Ryden came on as a substitute in Tulsa.

The heat map for the Monarchs during Saturday’s match also shows a strong tendency to the left.

Monarchs heat map from 31 March 2018
OPTA and USLSoccer

And all four goals came into goal from the left side.

Monarchs goals on 31 March 2018
OPTA And USLSoccer

While the shots on target show a more central approach...

Monarchs shots on target on 31 March 2018
OPTA And USLSoccer

and the remaining off target shots were nearly all all approaching from the right.

Monarchs shots off target 31 March 2018
OPTA and USLSoccer

Coming off an initial match where right winger Maikel Chang was named to USL Team of the Week for his two assists in Tulsa, the Monarchs had a big week on the left and left halfback Kalen Ryden was named to USL Team of the Week for his two goals.

It will be interesting to watch this tendency to the left as the Monarchs begin to meet more successful opponents and as Andrew Brody, who had his first start as right halfback, begins to gain more experience in that position.