While there are definitely plenty of places to point fingers following the performance tonight in Sacramento, here are three things a close follower and fan of the Monarchs noticed and feels compelled to comment upon.
Where is the midfield?
Any frequent observer of the Monarchs by now recognizes the routine and rehearsed movements that the squad follows in clearing the box and moving balls up into the attack. Charlie Adams and Sebastian Velasquez were not on the field tonight and Nick Besler, James Moberg and Max Lachowecki noticed the difference. Levels of play between the leagues may be very different, but Jose Hernandez and Omar Holness were rarely where the Monarch players expected to find them. A short lineup and lack of chemistry led to a very large number of balls up over the top, which is not how the Monarchs play.
Daniel Haber came in as the second substitute replacing Jose Hernandez who had been the center midfielder. Brooks Lennon moved over into the center and Haber took over on the right hand wing. While he has at times played the right side for other teams, Haber has been used almost exclusively on the left by the Monarchs in partnership with Lachowecki who was on the field as well. Max and Daniel have a great understanding and are good for 8-10 good overlapping runs a match. Max struggled with Sebastian Saucedo in front of him and got to continue the struggle even after Haber came onto the field and finishing with only one overlapping run that I can recall.
Brody who is the regular right winger for the Monarchs stayed on the bench until the late minutes of the match, then came on for Reagan Dunk, moving the side to more of a three-man back line and spent a good part of his on-field time on the left side.
Top of the box marking?
While the Sacramento goals came from inside the box, most, if not all, were set up by good relatively unmarked service from outside the box. Top of the box marking and stopping service from outside the box has become a point of focus for the Monarchs as their overall defense has improved. This is an area where the Monarchs have improved and where RSL still seems to struggle. Good defense and close marking outside the box by the midfielders and forwards makes the payoff a bit less frequent.
Three of the key saves and defensive stops mentioned in the RSL press release for the match were by Max Lachowecki and James Moberg. Sure they got beat on occasion but they also played their hearts out and made a difference on the field.
So are the Sacramento Republic and, by extension, the USL clubs just that good or did portions of tonight’s squad just make them look that good. Work ethic and chemistry with co-workers lands a lot of jobs and also loses a lot of jobs. Who might be finding this out in the weeks to come?