Real Monarchs managed a very tricky win last night against Sacramento Republic, and it’s one of those matches where you simply have to see the highlights.
Without too much further ado, here they are — but let’s talk about Ricardo Velazco afterward, because he’s turning into a very interesting player.
How good has Ricardo Velazco been for Real Monarchs? The attacking midfielder is now on seven goals for the season with four assists, and his first in this one is as good as it gets. (It’s not really — he’s scored even better.) And despite USL seemingly awarding the second goal as an own-goal, make no mistake — it’s on-target (probably) and he really forces the issue.
The 23-year-old Monarchs, Louisville and RSL-AZ standout is certainly working his way up the ladder. He runs at players, finds the right pass, and really has been excelling in this functional 4-3-3.
The best part about Velazco in this match is that the goals were hardly his only influence — he’s capable on the left, the right and through the center, but he’s always looking to make a difference.
This is where Real Monarchs can really excel as an organization: By forcing players into situations where there isn’t a veteran out there, you put all players in a better position to step into leadership roles and really differentiate themselves from their teammates.
With Real Salt Lake needing a bit more capable depth, and with the real possibility remaining that some players could be on the move within the team — presumably “depth” players — and with three roster spots currently open, could Velazco be the sort of player Craig Waibel would consider moving up?
It’s hard to say definitively, of course. It’s also worth considering that there are longer-term advantages to Velazco playing out the rest of the season with Real Monarchs: He’s the captain, and he’s taken on that responsibility. Would he grow more as a bench player sent on loan regularly to the B-team? Would he see first-team minutes with enough frequency to justify signing him now?
There’s already a certain reluctance from Jeff Cassar to replace his Best Players™ (which is to say, Burrito Martinez, Joao Plata, and Yura Movsisyan), and that could mean there’s not a lot of playing time available for him. It could also mean that a fresh face or two could really shake things up.
Whatever happens, Ricardo Velazco is certainly one player to watch in 2016.