Real Monarchs are set to begin their third season as the developmental squad for Real Salt Lake, and there have been some big changes to the team as the whole organization starts integrating its various levels for the future.
The Monarchs let go of half their players from the 2016 season, including many who had been with the team since the beginning and were among the favorites of the supporters. In addition, the hiring of former New York Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke brings a proven level of success, and should drive all the players at this level to become a much more cohesive team with a clear focus on consistent style as they progress towards becoming ready to make the jump to MLS.
With these things in mind, here’s a quick look at five players on the roster for 2017 that the RSL Family will want to keep an eye on:
5. Andrew Brody
Brody may be among the last of the players who take the longer route from their youth days to becoming a professional. After graduating from the RSL-AZ academy, he went to the University of Louisville for his college career, while also spending time playing in his hometown with the Orlando City U-23 team. At the end of his college career, he signed a contract to be part of the Monarchs second season.
A fast and capable midfielder, Brody appeared in 22 matches in 2016, and scored two goals for the Monarchs. Though the Monarchs web site lists him as a defender, and it’s certainly possible Petke may try him at fullback at times, expect Brody to play most often as either the #8 mid (think Sunny or Mulholland for RSL), or on the wings of the attack.
4. Charlie Adams
Adams is the organization’s second English player, coming from second-tier Brentford FC’s youth system. He’s earned most of his playing time through USL side Louisville City in 2015, with two goals in 20 matches including a cracker from outside the box in the first game of the season. He also added a goal in U.S. Open Cup play that year, scoring the only goal of their second round match.
After returning to England for a bit, Adams was a late-season add for the Monarchs in 2016, making 5 appearances and scoring just one goal that would prove to be a match-winner against San Antonio at the RioT. With a full season to integrate with the team, Adams should see a lot of time in the Monarchs attack, and could become a dangerous scorer with his ability to shoot from several distances.
3. Charles Boateng
Though RSL fans may cringe at that last name after last season, it’s going to be much better to have this Ghanaian footballer on our side. Not to be confused with the player of the same name who is 9 years older and playing in France’s third tier, this Charles Boateng is a 19-year-old product of the West African Football Academy, and has shown a lot of promise as an attacking player in his early career.
He scored 6 goals last season in the Ghanaian Premier League, good for second most on his team which finished sixth in the league in 2016. The press release on his loan announcement said the Monarchs plan to use him on the wings of the attack, which will be good news for a team that needs to replace quite a few players at that position.
2. Nick Besler
Another player with a familiar last name to RSL fans, the younger brother of Sporting KC and USMNT defender Matt Besler will join the Monarchs after two years in the Portland Timbers organization.
Despite being selected 5th overall by the Timbers in the 2015 SuperDraft, he spent his entire time with the team on loan with their USL squad, making 50 appearances over two seasons and scoring one goal. Another player mysteriously listed as a defender on the team site, he’s played as a midfielder his whole career, and has done so in his appearances for RSL this preseason. Joining the Monarchs sees him reunite with Max Lachowecki, who was his teammate at Notre Dame for the 2013 National Championship victory over Maryland. At 6’1”, Nick is a player who could potentially be converted to add depth at center back alongside Emilio Orozco, though he will likely provide a consistent and controlling influence in the midfield.
1. Sebastian Velasquez
This one might feel like cheating a bit, but I think the return of the player fans affectionately nicknamed “Rufio” is worth highlighting.
Though issues off the field affected his 2014 season under Jeff Cassar, he reunited with Jason Kreis for a season at NYCFC, and made the right steps to grow as an individual. After spending last season with Rayo OKC of NASL (16 appearances, 2 goals), Velasquez returns to where he got his start, and will take advantage of a club that didn’t exist then, but could have provided a different path for him at the time.
This is a big moment for Sebastian’s career. He’ll be 26 years old when the season starts, so he should be coming into the best of his ability. This is a great position for him to show his capability as a leader on the field, and set the tone each game and the season as a whole. I’ll stop short of saying he’s a lock for wearing the captain’s armband, but even without it he needs to have a veteran presence and set the example for the rest of the team.
What do you think? Who are the players you are most excited to watch this season? If there’s someone you think we missed, add your thoughts in the comments below.