In their third season in USL, the Real Monarchs have accomplished something their parent club never has: winning the regular season title. Though it doesn’t carry the same prestige here that it does overseas, winning the shield is still an accomplishment that the entire RSL family can be proud of. But while the players have answered any and all questions that have been asked on the field, the success this season raises literal questions for the front office off of it, namely what is the long term plan for the Monarchs?
The Monarchs first took the pitch in 2015 with a lineup that heavily featured former academy players and a handful of guys out of college. This squad was to be developmental in nature, which is good because it sure didn’t win many games. The first victory didn’t come until seven games in, and overall the team went 7-13-8, taking a mere 29 out of 84 available points (35%). By comparison, this season’s trophy winning squad sits on 64 out of 93 (69%). The difference? Age, experience, and near complete roster turnover.
Nine out of 19 listed players this season check in at 25 years of age or older, leading goalscorer “Grandpa” Chandler Hoffman is an elder statesman at 27 years old. The youngest listed players are Andrew Brody, Juan Mare, and Andrew Putna at age 22. RSL has six rotation players younger than that. Rather than the roster loaded with academy and college experience we saw in the Monarch’s first two seasons, a healthy contingent of this year’s squad boast MLS experience, as well as time in other professional leagues.
Though we can see the “developmental” nature of the club in the signings of 2017 standouts Nick Besler and Connor Sparrow to RSL, it seems the blueprint has shifted from “bring in a lot of young talent and see who rises to the top” to more of a “bring in a mix of professionals who can help bring young talent along while also winning games”. Rather than a bridge from the academy to the first team, the Monarch’s have become a bridge from outside the club to within.
How this will be handled in the future will be interesting to watch. Having the academy in Herriman should somewhat streamline the flow of younger players. Most academy standouts may not have the ability to transition as smoothly to MLS as Justen Glad and Co. have, and will need the time in USL. Development is the priority, but there is no reason the Monarch’s can’t blood young academy talent while also surrounding them by older professionals with experience. If they do keep going this route, Monarchs hoisting silverware may become a regular occurrence.
What should the Monarch’s roster look like going forward? Let us know in the comments!