It’s finally here, First Kick 2015! The first game up is Charleston Battery against Toronto FC II, but let’s take a look at our Game of the Week first: LA Galaxy II versus Real Monarchs.
Los Dos marks their sophomore campaign welcoming the USL debutant Monarchs to the StubHub Center on Sunday, March 21. Kickoff is set for 8:00 pm ET in what should be a match that will, in theory, have MLS implications in the not-so-distant future.
Home Scouting Report
Coming off a semifinal appearance last season, LA will hope to rekindle the magic that carried them through their first season. Curt Onalfo returns to man the sideline for a Los Dos side that went 15-7-6 during the regular season, good enough for the No. 3-seed in the USL playoffs.
Ariel Lassiter has been brought in to replace the 13 goals scored by Chandler Hoffman last term. Hoffman averaged 1.59 points per game last season. A Costa Rica youth international, Lassiter, spent last year with Swedish side GAIS, scoring one goal in 12 appearances, and will look to improve on those numbers in his first season in the City of Angels.
The question for LA comes in the form of their backline. While Oscar Sorto did spend time in the United States National Team camp this past January, Los Dos allowed 38 goals in 2014 and averaged 1.36 goals against. That ranks in the bottom half of all teams, and was the second-most goals allowed by a playoff side, a season ago. However, there is definite cohesion in the side thanks to LA’s academy and with little roster turnover they should hopefully have the leaky defense sealed up.
Away Scouting Report
In their debut season, the Monarchs have promoted from within their prestigious academy system from the players all the way up to the head man, Freddy Juarez. Juarez has brought in several of his Real Salt Lake-Arizona Academy products for the Monarchs’ maiden voyage, and that continuity should pay immediate dividends.
Emery Welshman, a former Toronto first round pick out of Oregon State, was brought in to lead a youthful attack. The Mississauga, Ontario-native most recently plied his trade with semi-pro League1 Ontario side Sigma FC, bagging 16 goals in 18 appearances. He’ll look to get good service from a midfield littered with homegrown talent, most notably the 2014 Premier Development League Young Player of the Year, Ricardo Velazco, who had four assists in 2014 for FC Tucson.
Defensively, the team looks to be anchored by former El Salvador youth international Marvin Baumgartner. The left back spent last season with FC Wettswil-Bonstetten in Switzerland, going 90 minutes in all but one of his seven appearances across the defensive front and helping the team to five clean sheets. Lalo Fernandez, a former U-20 USYNT member, should feature between the sticks.
PRO has announced that Bernhard Hosu will be the center ref for the match. He will be assisted by Eduardo Jeff and Kamal Malouf. Ryan Keck will serve as the fourth official. At this time there are no stats available since it’s the first game of the season and none of the above refs have archived data.
Around the League
– Charleston will be kicking off their 23rd season against TFCII at Blackbaud Stadium a day earlier on Saturday, March 20. First kick is scheduled for 7:30 pm ET. Odisnel Cooper, the Battery keeper, is more acclimated to North American game than ever before, collecting 16 clean sheets the last two years, while Dane Kelly will lead the foward line. Opposite the Battery is a TFCII side that features several academy products, as well as five of Toronto’s eight 2015 MLS SuperDraft picks.
– The nightcap on Saturday kicks off at 10:30 pm ET in the Starfire Sports Stadium as Sacramento Republic begins their title defense against Seattle Sounders 2. S2 recently signed MAC Hermann Trophy Finalist Andy Craven to a contract and he should be a force for the Sounders all year. SRFC will have to dig deep, as both Thomas Stewart and Rodrigo Lopez are out with injury to open the season. Thomas is still recovering from minor foot surgery performed in the preseason and will be out 2-4 more weeks, while Lopez reportedly torn an unspecified muscle. It has not been determined how long he will be out for.
(image courtesy of goalnation.com)