Photo courtesy David Calvert / Reno 1868 FC
With the offseason now fully underway, clubs across the USL are becoming active in the free agent market as they build out their squads for the 2018 season. Among those who were quick to move were defending USL Regular Season Championship-winners Real Monarchs SLC, which has made some attacking offseason moves that should stand it in good stead as it moves into its new stadium next spring.
Having already retained its two USL All-League First Team selections in Chandler Hoffman and Sebastian Velasquez, solid central midfielder Charlie Adams and bright attacking options Andrew Brody and Juan Mare, the side also picked up a pair of players in Maikel Chang and Justin Portillo that have been key to the Charleston Battery’s sustained success in recent years.
Those additions could provide another layer of flexibility to Head Coach Mark Briggs in terms of system and formation as the Monarchs look to maintain their standard in the new season. Here are three potential options that could be looked at in the new year.
The thing you’ll likely notice in each of these systems is that the base of the group will remain the same throughout, with Justin Portillo and Charlie Adams holding the two deep-lying midfield roles. Another option here could be Karsten Hanlin, but with their passing range and ability to work through the midfield efficiently being key to the Monarchs’ attack, we’re going to settle on that pairing throughout.
Elsewhere, this formation would be a throwback to the manner which Real opened the 2017 season with Hoffman serving as the tip of the attack while gaining support from Velasquez while Brody and Chang provide the width. Chang’s arrival – after recording a single-season high 10 assists for the Battery last season – will give the Monarchs a two-option threat, with Chang able to cut into the middle effectively to link up in a triangle with Hoffman and Velasquez, or to get wide to provide service for Hoffman’s off-ball movement to the top of the six-yard area.
There are a couple of wrinkles to this set-up, but the most important in addition to placing Velasquez at the top of a midfield triangle with Portillo and Adams is the positioning of Mare and Chang, who would have the ability to invert inward from the left and right respectively. This could be key for Chang, allowing the left-footed Cuban to be brought inside on a regular basis and open up space for either Portillo or the Monarchs right back to move into space on the flank, potentially creating a 3-on-2 against opposing defenses.
The opportunity for Mare and Chang to switch sides, depending on matchups, could also create problems for opposing defenses, with the Argentinian forward doing plenty of good work in the right channel, where he could arrive late at the back post to take advantage of Chang’s service from the left side if needed.
Later in the 2017 season, the Monarchs moved into a three-center back system that brought added width to the side, and with the pieces they’ve got to hand that could certainly be an option again moving forward, although it would potentially mean the removal of Chang from the starting lineup in favor of Danny Cruz, who was used as a wingback previously by Briggs.
A key piece to this system, however, would be Andrew Brody, with the former RSL Academy standout having the ability to put opposing defenses on their heels while also having the work-rate to do the defensive work required. With the defensive cover bring provided by the holding right-side midfielder – in this case Portillo – Brody would look to add to his four assists and 26 key passes in the 2017 regular season, and potentially bring the likes of Velasquez into play on the right side to serve as another creator down the right.