Mark McKenzie vs. FC Dallas

2019 Schedule Analysis: April

Philadelphia Union has a Western Conference-heavy April, with FC Dallas, LA Galaxy, and Vancouver Whitecaps all on the schedule. Additionally, Montreal Impact arrives back at Talen Energy Stadium after smoking the Union at home last September, offering a month full of difficult but winnable matches. Three of these clubs will be under new managers, with only the Quebec-based Impact retaining their 2018 head man. Remi Garde made significant improvements to his team’s system as last year progressed, but after selling energy-man Alejandro Silva he has holes to fill. Let’s take an in-depth look at each opponent.

vs FC Dallas - April 6

Who Were They Last Year?
  • 4th place in Western Conference (57 pts, lost in Knockout Round)
  • 16-9-9 overall (52 GF, 44 GA), 6-4-7 on the road (20 GF, 25 GA)
What Has Changed This Offseason?
No more Oscar Pareja on the bench and no more Max Urruti up front. Plus Dallas brought in a veteran striker to complement Dominique Badji up front. 

@ LA Galaxy - April 13

Who Were They Last Year?
  • The Team That Orbited Around Planet Zlatan
  • 7th place in Western Conference (48 pts, frittered away a seemingly surefire playoff appearance as Mike Petke BBQ'd)
  • 13-12-9 overall (66 GF, 64 GA), 8-4-5 at home (37 GF, 27 GA)
What Has Changed This Offseason?
New Sporting Director Dennis Te Kloese has brought in former Columbus Crew standout Guillermo Barros Schelotto to direct Season 2 of The Zlatan Show. Schelotto is coming off an extremely successful run in charge of Boca Juniors and there was a strong sense that he was headed for Atlanta United before Frank de Boer was named to lead the Five Stripes. 
The Galaxy are still likely to make a few big moves before the 2019 season begins. With Zlatan returning they probably need to jettison one of their other star players, and the defense needs a #NewYearNewYou revamp in the worst way. 
If that back line is sorted, LA suddenly becomes a very dangerous opponent. Their 66 goals scored were third overall in the league last year behind only Atlanta and LAFC. Indeed, Galaxy scored more goals at home (37) than the Colorado Rapids scored the entire season, home and away (hence Colorado reaching on Kei Kamara). 
This will be a difficult fixture for the Union, but it could be a winnable one with LA transitioning to a new system and trying to fit any new defensive pieces together. The Galaxy still don't have a clear No. 1 goalie that can provide Dre-level protection for a jelling defense, so Philly should be able to create some opportunities if they can occupy spaces behind the LA midfield. 

vs Montreal Impact - April 20

Who Were They Last Year?
  • 7th place in Eastern Conference (47 pts)
  • 14-16-4 overall (47 GF, 53 GA), 3-12-2 on the road (16 GF, 37 GA)
What Has Changed This Offseason?
Alejandro Silva, the wide player whose emergence added an extra and needed dimension to the Impact's bunker-and-counter system has moved on. Now Montreal will try to hold onto Saphir Taider so they have a ball-mover through the center to take the progression burden off of Nacho Piatti and they will seek to find another attacking option that will allow them to better partner Remi Garde's deep defensive shape into dangerous counterattacking options
With so much turnover in the Eastern Conference, Montreal will be hoping that -- along with New England -- they can be one of the clubs that takes advantage of new coaches and systems arriving at many playoff teams. The Impact showed considerable improvement last season as Garde and his squad both came to terms with the abilities at their disposal and began fitting those abilities into something coherent. Piatti's irrepressible transition moves were emphasized, while Micheal Ariza's mobility and bite paired well with Samuel Piette's positional sense in the center of midfield. This finally provided a layer of insulation that a soft back line needed to survive. If the Galaxy had managed to work out a system that protected their defensive line as well as Garde and Montreal did, they would almost certainly have ended up in the playoff picture out west. 
But as of now it's unclear how the Impact will look in 2019. They have some young guns that can push for time in preseason, and they brought back former Arsenal right back Bacary Sagna to provide attacking width in Silva's absence. Sagna was force going forward last year, but defensively he was about as responsible as the parents from Home Alone. 

@ Vancouver Whitecaps - April 27

Who Were They Last Year?
  • Alphonso Davies' launchpad
  • 8th place in Western Conference (47 pts)
  • 13-13-8 overall (54 GF, 67 GA), 7-5-5 at home (32 GF, 29 GA)
What Has Changed This Offseason?
The head coach, for starters. Marc Dos Santos is in charge now, and he's intent on rebuilding the 'Caps culture. With Kei Kamara, Alphonso Davies, Brek Shea, and Kendall Waston out the door already, Dos Santos has every opportunity to change the DNA of the franchise, and he still has plenty of talent to work with... at least in midfield and attack. 
Yordy Reyna is a stellar player (albeit one that got his tuckus handed to him by Fafa Picault and reacted very poorly) who could become very disruptive if utilized well, and Andy Rose may finally provide some stability in the center of midfield that has been missing since Matias Laba and Tony Tchani moved on. 
The story here, as at the Galaxy, will be buy-in. How quickly can Dos Santos get it, and how tumultuous will the path from the basics to final form be? For 2018 Montreal, the early season roller coaster was too much to overcome once things settled into a good place, but for Giovanni Savarese's Portland, a midseason run propelled them into the playoffs (and, eventually, into the MLS Cup final) after a sludgy start. 

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