Real Monarchs' miserable losing schedule, while still being something you can see on a standings page, has taken a new, exciting look — there are wins in both columns, and there are more than just two of them.
That's all a bit surprising, and we're left wondering how — and why — they've been able to do it.
3. Finding the right pieces
When Real Monarchs started the season, the roster was hardly complete. It kept growing, and with every new piece came new time to integrate — it, in essence, set the team back a notch. Now, given the primary purpose of the team is development and not winning trophies, there's not really an easy way to just fix this, but it's something that at least made a difference.
But all of that wouldn't be possible without the next point, and this is a bigger one. (Hence the smaller number. Makes sense, right?)
2. Gradual improvements coming together
If it wasn't one thing, it was another for this Monarchs team. First, they couldn't attack properly. Then, they couldn't defend properly. Then, once they figured that out, they couldn't hold on to a lead. Then — well, you get the picture. It was one thing after another, and slowly but surely, the team has adapted.
That's not just down to the defense coming together in a more cohesive way or the front three clicking in ways they couldn't before. It's about every player knowing the other players more closely — knowing their movement, their deficiencies, their proficiencies. Those are things that have come gradually — that's just the way those things happen, more or less — but they're finally getting there.
If we're to see those same improvements carry over next year, the team can't have too much change — more than 50 percent roster change year-over-year could incur some of the same problems. And if it does, that's fine as long as players are improving and developing, but don't expect instant results.
1. Player growth
Real Monarchs started the season with a whole slew of recent college graduates. In fact, the list of players who weren't just graduated from college is shorter than the list of those who had: Marvin Baumgartner, Lennon Celestino, Emilio Orozco, Maikon Orellana, Max Rauhofer, Victor Rodriguez, Alec Sundly, and Emery Welshman. And while certainly some of those players have featured more than others, a big chunk of them have also helped lead the pack.
But as big — or bigger — an impact? The others around them have stepped up. Tyler Arnone has become a solid right back, Riley McGovern has continued to hone his skills as an attacking full back, Ricardo Velazco has started excelling at this level, and Lucas Baldin has steadily become an important player. And let's not forget about the RSL loanees: Boyd Okwuonu and Phanuel Kavita are proving excellent defensive players, Fito Ovalle is learning to assert himself against older, stronger players, and Sebastian Saucedo is slowly learning to take control of the game.
And overall, the maturity of each player has improved. The more experienced players have been thrust into leadership roles, while the less-experienced have learned to take the roles they served in their youth and college upbringings into their professional careers.
The biggest place that's seen? Monarchs have conceded fewer late goals. That's been a huge thing we can actually see in results.