As the Monarchs head into the final seven matches of the 2018 USL season beginning with Saturday’s match in Edinburgh against Rio Grande Valley let’s take a moment and look at who might still be in contention for a move up to the parent club, Real Salt Lake. To provide organization, I will list the the players with USL contracts in order of their valuation on Transfermarkt.
Chandler Hoffman - The reigning USL Player of the Year, Hoffman returned to the Monarchs for a second season and promptly struggled early in the season. While he finally scored his 50th USL goal and found his form to currently lead the team with 11 goals, he has continued to be a very streaky player. In a pattern to common to many gifted second level forwards, Hoffman has been unable to find enough consistent form to push his way to the top. Already 28 with with a well established history Hoffman was a long shot to get another shot at MLS, Chandler has already signed with the startup USL team in hometown of Birmingham, Alabama for the 2019 season.
Jack Blake - Blake spent the 2017 season with Kalen Ryden at the Jacksonville Armada in the now dormant NASL and was forced to hustle up a position with the Tampa Bay Rowdies of the USL for 2018 on short notice. With the changes still going on at Tampa Bay this season, Jack was unable to break into a starting postion and was offered on loan to the Monarchs in June. A defensive midfielder by trade he has been forced into a more box-to-box role with the Monarchs in tandem with Justin Portillo. He has averaged a strong 56.5 passes per 90 with the Monarchs with a accuracy of 81.2% which is good, but not stellar. He seems a very strong candidate to be brought in on a new USL contract, but not likely to move up to RSL.
Sebastian Velasquez - Beloved of the fans, Velasquez has fought through a injury hampered 2018 season and has another year under contract with the Monarchs. 27 years of age and much more grounded than with his initial stretch with Real Salt Lake, he continues to shine when on the field for the Monarchs. However, incidents like the dispute over ball possession at the match with Swope Park show that he still has the same fiery approach which means it might be an uphill battle to join the present midfield leaders on RSL.
Maikel Chang - Joined the Monarchs from the Charleston Battery along with Justin Portillo at the start of this season. He has proven to be a dependable winger with a nice touch on the ball and the ability to hit a nice cross into the box. Maikel leads the Monarchs with 7 assists, 52 key passes and 68 crosses with 25% success. Although 27 years old, he still seems to have a possible upside and could contribute nicely in the current offensive scheme at the parent club. If not for his teammate, Justin Portillo, he would be a favorite for a new MLS contract with Real Salt Lake.
Justin Portillo - New to the club this season Portillo has stepped directly into the defensive midfield position and marshaled a ever changing defensive lineup that is overall much improved from last season. He leads the team with 63.1 passes per 90 and a 88.9% success rate overall which stays at 74.9% on long passes. Justin takes a large number of the corner kicks for the Monarchs and has 6 assists and 50 key passes to stand just below Maikel Chang is both categories. 26-year-old Portillo has consistently been able to pull deep into the center of the field to collect the ball and move the ball forward to the midfield and wings. With a total of 4 yellow cards for the season despite playing defensive midfielder in all 27 matches this season, Portillo has to be a favorite for the 1st player to be moved up to RSL.
Who is your favorite, if anyone, to be the next to take the step up to Real Salt Lake.?