When Real Monarchs kicked off their first season in 2015, it rained. A lot.
It never really stopped raining, and in a way, that was a fitting tribute to a season — maybe two — that just never really went the right way. There was some interesting talent on the team, certainly, and much of it you’d have heard of before if you paid much attention to academy talent.
But for one reason or another, it just never came together. The players just weren’t able to compete at a USL level as a team, and in a way, it seemed like a bit of a mirror image of Real Salt Lake’s broader issues during those two years. In a way, it was an experiment, and while it didn’t go wrong, it didn’t go particularly right, either.
There are, of course, mitigating circumstances to the circumstance’s success. Emery Welshman, who was a true standout in 2015, signed with Real Salt Lake following the conclusion of the season. He never got a chance to succeed there, though, as he underwent multiple surgeries and didn’t play a single match for the first team. Other players saw some real success, but varied circumstances have produced varied results. For example, one of 2015’s standouts, Maikon Orellana, has shifted away from professional soccer toward pursuing a music career.
But we’re not here to damn them for their failures. Instead, let’s celebrate some of their successes. In three years, they’ve:
- Gone from basically the worst to basically the best in the league,
- Moved multiple coaches to the first team in Freddy Juarez and Mike Petke,
- Provided an opportunity for Mark Briggs, who was a talented coach at Wilmington Hammerheads and has truly proven himself here,
- Developed two players that signed to first-team contracts during the 2017 season in Connor Sparrow and Nick Besler,
- Consistently provided entertaining, attacking soccer — to their detriment in the first year, but the focus was correct,
- Provided opportunities for academy and college players to move forward into the professional soccer world, including opening a path for multiple players internationally (like Alec Sundly to Sweden and Jonathan Caparelli to Germany)
But by the same token, some of the failures might include not identifying players that were likely to progress as professionals — there’s a staggering number of players that just didn’t go forward with soccer as a career. Is that a bad thing? Well, it depends on how you approach talent identification and development.
The failures in the first two years of play have, by and large, been erased. Now, we’re left with a team that’s succeeding in many areas, but only time will tell how these players develop. Are we signing more players that will become USL veterans? Is that better or worse than signing players with a chance to make it that fail? That’s a tough call.
We’ll continue talking about how Real Monarchs have succeeded this week, but it’s important to recognize what we’ve come from. It’s a remarkable turnaround for a club that had struggled to win more than a few games.