2019 Schedule Analysis: July

Fafa Picault vs. Orlando City SC

July opens with a home-and-home for Orlando City SC followed by three winnable games. Real Salt Lake at home is the toughest of the bunch on paper, but knocking off Montreal will be a difficult proposition if they continue to pack it in deep. The Union could take double-digit points from this month if they can find a rhythm, and if they make need to make a run -- as they did last season, expect it to come in this month.  

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@ Orlando City SC - July 3

Who Were They Last Year?

  • A lot of talent came in but not a lot of points came out
  • Yoshi Yotun was a stud and Dom Dwyer remained a constant danger but there never enough defense to stay in games. Also, that DC thing happened
  • 8-22-4 (43 GF, 74 GA),

What Has Changed This Offseason?
Quite a bit, especially in back. OCSC now has two new fullbacks to man the flanks in 2019. Joao Moutinho was acquired from LAFC and Ruan just touched down from Brasil's Serie B. Lamine Sane and Shane O'Neill will continue in the center, with Carlos Ascues able to move between midfield and the back line. Ascues' development will be a very interesting storyline this season. He can provide great passing range in defense, but pulling him out of midfield means someone will need to step up to help Oriol Rosell and Sacha Kljestan. It could be Cristian Higuita or Will Johnson, but they are known quantities and won't provide the ball progression that Yotun did a year ago. 
There is a plethora of young talent at James O'Conner's disposal, but no sure things. The former Louisville City head man will need someone to step up to allow Orlando to move the ball up the middle. Otherwise it'll be wide-n-cross to Dwyer for another season. 

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vs Orlando City SC - July 6

Who Were They Last Year?

  • See above
  • 8-22-4 (43 GF, 74 GA), on the road 2-15-0 (15 GF, 44 GA)

What Has Changed This Offseason?
I just told you this!

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@ Real Salt Lake - July 13

Who Were They Last Year?

  • 6th in the Western Conference, RSL needed a Los Angeles Galaxy collapse to make the playoffs. They got it. 
  • Mike Petke had to mix-n-match in defense just to make it through the season, and things often went poorly (see: @PhilaUnion), but moving Damir Kreilach to a striker role created a team capable of absorbing punches and firing back.
  • 14-13-7 (55 GF, 58 GA), at home 11-2-4 (38 GF, 24 GA)

What Has Changed This Offseason?
With Kyle Beckerman fighting the aging bug, RSL acquired Everton Luiz to bring extra defensive work in midfield. They also added Nedum Onuoha late last season to shore up the back line, and together these players should provide a more consistent platform for a hopefully-happy Albert Rusnak, Jefferson Savarino, and Joao Plata to run riot on defenders. With Rusnak in control of the attack, Mike Petke's men are always dangerous, but whether Damir Kreilach can continue to rumble toward goal as a striker -- a move made after teams like the Union simple ran past him in midfield -- will determine just how dangerous this team can be. 
RSL's postseason was a true Hollywood story: The Galaxy's Decision Day failure let them in and LAFC completely outplayed them, but through Kreilach's use of Karate Kid shooting tactics they progressed past the knockout round. That's a high bar for Petke and co. to leap again in 2019, and they will need a lot of growth from some young defenders like Justen Glad and Danny Acosta to improve on it this season. 

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vs Chicago Fire - July 20

Who Were They Last Year?

  • Weird. Sorta entertaining, unpredictable, messy, fascinating. Chicago had a positionless player, a fullback at center back, and a winger at fullback. Also: Alan Gordon
  • Bastian Schweinsteiger's team, which means they were built around the rhythm-setting German legend and shaped around his preferences on the pitch
  • 8-18-8 (48 GF, 61 GA), on the road 2-11-4 (22 GF, 36 GA)

What Has Changed This Offseason?
Not a ton of change, but Djordje Mihailovic's health will be welcome. Fabian Herbers arrives from Philly to provide energy and hopefully pour in a few goals. But finishing isn't the issue in Chi-town, where both Nemanja Nikolic and Alex Katai can be streaky but deadly when hot. 
But will the back line have enough to float the high potential in attack? Brandon Vincent retired at age 24 and left backs are already difficult to find. Additionally, Jonathan Campbell split town, so Nico Del Grecco, Grant Lillard, and Marcelo are the center back rotation to start the season. That's a beatable group, but they should have more Dax McCarty in front of them in 2019, and that will provide a bit of extra protection.
Schweinsteiger won't play as a sweeper again, right? ...Right?? 

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@ Montreal Impact - July 27

Who Were They Last Year?

  • A team that looked broken, then fell back into Helm's Deep and rallied around behind a hard working central midfield and the uber-talent of Nacho Piatti
  • Former Arsenal right back Bacary Sagna joined up and provided a huge attacking spark up the right, but he went in and out defensively
  • 14-16-4 (47 GF, 43 GA), at home 11-4-2 (31 GF, 16 GA) 

What Has Changed This Offseason?
Maxi Urruti will lead the line with Matteo Mancosu and Quincy Amarikwa out the door. Urruti's interactions with fellow Argentine Piatti will determine whether Montreal can manufacture enough offense to compete in the Eastern Conference. There's a worrying amount of age behind Samuel Piette and Micheal Azira in midfield, so expect the deep, deep shape that turned the Impact into a competitor to return in 2019. 
Montreal won't be a particularly fun team to watch, but if they can maintain the organization head coach Remi Garde craves, they will have a realy chance at becoming a post-season dark horse.