Fullbacks: Tony Beltran (RB, $230,950), Demar Phillips ($162,837), Chris Wingert ($145,394), Danny Acosta ($65,625), Reagan Dunk ($53,004). Monarchs Players: Max Lachowecki, Kyle Curinga, Taylor Peay.
Centerbacks: Justen Glad ($246,700), Aaron Maund ($174,437), Chris Schuler ($132,500), David Horst ($115,004), Justin Schmidt ($53,004). Monarchs Players: James Moberg, Michael Gallagher, Emilo Orozco.
Now comes the argument of sample sizes. Of all the positions on the field, the defense has easily had the most ups and downs. Every defender on the roster has played in at least three matches, and the Monarchs boast one of the best defenses in USL. No matter how you slice it, however, RSL has the worst goal difference in the league by five goals, only Minnesota has given up more goals (41) than RSL’s 38, and Columbus is the next closest team, letting past 32. Something isn’t working.
Justen Glad has really stood out in the last three matches, where the club only gave up a total of three goals. The strong showing on his return from injury and the U-20 World Cup only cements him even deeper into a starting spot. David Horst continued his strong form against Orlando, his first appearance after a positive start in the club’s first two matches. Aaron Maund looked good against Minnesota, but then looked flat and slow against San Jose. The contrast between the two matches is a great summary of how his season has been.
Maund is only 26 and has a much shorter injury history compared to Chris Schuler, who is 31. Given how Horst has played, and their combined performances when paired together, it would make sense for the club to try move on from either Maund or Schuler, if not both. While Maund has shown more promise, that also makes him the more likely candidate to find someone willing to take on his contract.
Rookies Justin Schmidt and Reagan Dunk were both thrown into the fire far sooner than anyone had hoped or anticipated. Schmidt had a few solid performances, Dunk showed brief glimpses of promise, but ultimately both would do well with some time with the Monarchs. There is an argument to be made that they wouldn’t immediately start over the current Monarchs defenders, so, in theory, those defenders should also be getting first team minutes ahead of the rookies. Dunk would likely be the only player the team could move to the Monarchs thanks to the CBA, but Schmidt has at least shown enough to potentially land with a lower division side on a loan, much like Devon Sandoval and Rayo OKC of the NASL last year.
Comparatively, veteran Chris Wingert has seen significant minutes in all four positions, thanks to injuries. His versatility has been appreciated, but many of his performances have highlighted the growth and evolution of MLS if you catch my drift. Wingert is a great leader, competitor, and locker room guy, but that will only get you so far in terms of shutting down some of the attackers he’s being tasked with.
At 35, it’s unlikely Wingert would find a landing place if the club tries to move him, which is fine for now, but along with moving Schmidt and Dunk, the team could bring up versatile defender Taylor Peay from the Monarchs. Peay has seen time all over the backline like Wingert with the first team but is more experienced compared to the rookies. Max Lachowecki has also shown well as a fullback option if they don’t need a combination-type player in return. While Wingert is probably better than all of them, he’s not a long-term option for a team whose short-term chances look bleaker by the week. Danny Acosta has proven to be a viable option behind Tony Beltran and Demar Phillips, who just need to get healthy first and foremost.
Verdict: It would be surprising if any other area of the roster changes more than the backline.