The Monarchs open the 2019 USL playoffs with a match where many of the pundits are giving the nod to fifth place Reno over the fourth place Monarchs even though they have the advantage of hosting the match. While 1868 are definitely coming into the match on a roll with 4 wins and a draw in their last five matches, there are several additional factors that should also be considered.
Rivalry or not?
During their two years in the league Reno has turned into somewhat of a rival for the Monarchs. However, much like their parent club RSL’s relationship to Sporting Kansas City this is somewhat of a one sided affair. Reno has always considered the nearby Sacramento Republic to be their largest rival and with the advent of the Las Vegas Lights this season they now also have an in-state rival. While it could easily be stated that both teams, and their fans, just do not care for the other, their is a little something extra deep behind that emotion for the more isolated Real Monarchs.
The teams split the season series with 1868 taking a 3-0 victory in Reno on July 3rd only to see the Monarchs emerge victorious in the 2-1 rematch at Zions Bank Stadium on August 8th. However, Sebastian Velasquez, the main central threat and playmaker of the Monarchs, did not play a role in either of those matches. In the 3 match sweep of Reno during the 2106 season, Velasquez played a key role with three assists and another 4 key passes. This season the Monarchs went 13-3-2 in the eighteen match which Sebastian started and only 6-9-1 in the other other 16.
For Reno, Brian Brown, their all-time leading scorer is frequently mentioned as he scored 3 goals this season against the Monarchs. However, two of those goals and a missed penalty kick came in the 3-0 lost in Reno when the Monarchs continued to chase a victory to their own demise. During the rematch in Herriman, he scored a early goal to give 1868 the lead but the Monarchs came back with 2 to get the victory
A Lesson Learned?
Both the 1st place Monarchs (20-5-7) and 3rd place Reno (17-7-8) lost at home in their first-ever playoff matches during the first round of the 2017 USL playoffs. However, the Monarchs went out through a penalty shootout while 1868 lost 1-0 during regular time. While neither of the teams have the overall records that they sported in 2017, there is one notable difference in their 2018 records of 19-12-3 for the Monarchs and 16-7-11 for Reno. The Monarchs reduced their number of draws from 7 to 3 while Reno increased the number of draws from 8 to 11.
Throughout the season the Monarchs consistently played for a win, even when falling behind early, which resulted in a number of lopsided losses. From their record, it appears that 1868 were much more inclined to settle for a draw and take the point. During a regular season match there may be merit to both approaches, but in the playoffs where a draw will lead only to a penalty shootout it is much more clear-cut. Win during regular time or go into a shootout where anything can happen.
Contributions from MLS players?
Both the Monarchs and 1868 have affiliations to MLS sides and have featured a number of players down on loan from RSL and San Jose respectively. Due to the freeze of post-season rosters on September 14, 2018, we can look at who featured for both squads since then and get some idea of which MLS players might be available for this match.
Going into the 2018 season it was expected that Andrew Putna would be the Monarchs’ first string keeper with assistance from Connor Sparrow, who signed with RSL following the 2017 season, as possible. Injuries, however, forced both Putna and Sparrow to feature more for RSL until recently. Both have played for the Monarchs since the freeze and even though one will likely be on the bench at Portland on Sunday, we should have at least one at Zion Bank Stadium on Saturday.
Sebastian Saucedo scored twice against OKC Energy in a tune up, but with his performance on Thursday against New England he is unlikely to be with Monarchs tomorrow. That leaves Taylor Peay and Jose Hernandez, both definite possibilities to at least make the 18, and Adam Henley, Pablo Ruiz and Ricky Lopez-Espin.
Matt Bersano has been the regular keeper for 1868 in the lead up to the playoffs and seems to be the likely starter tomorrow. Chris Wehan also seems likely to start in midfield, but Jackson Yuell, who played a large roll in the 3-0 rout at Reno does not seem likely to be available for Reno.
Saturday Afternoon Sun
Join us for the 3 PM kickoff for a sunny afternoon of playoff football at Zions Bank Stadium where the temperature is expected to be in the low 70s with a light wind out of the north. If nothing else, it will help pass the time till Sunday’s big match in Portland.