Real Monarchs SLC emerged 1-0 victors in their final pre-season scrimmage against Utah Valley University on Friday night at the ZBRA indoor facility. Although the 2018 USL season officially begins the weekend the Monarch’s first match will not take place until March 24th in Tulas against the Roughnecks.
Head Coach Mark Briggs stated that he planned to approach this scrimmage much as a regular season game and hoped to give 90 minutes to many players as the regular season looms. The Monarchs came out in the sharp new primary uniforms with Connor Sparrow down from RSL in goal; Andrew Brody, Nick Besler (down from RSL), Michael Gallagher, and new signing Kalen Ryden across the back line; Justin Portillo, Charlie Adams, and Jose Hernandez (down from RSL) in the middle; and Maikel Chang, Chandler Hoffman and Josh Heard up top.
The short-handed UVU squad, which is out of season, struggled to hold possession and and make effective connections in the final third. What they did effectively was bring the spirit and pace indicative of all Coach Greg Maas’ squads. Fighting to the end, they had plenty of legs left as the match apprached full time and things began to become a little scrappy.
Connor Sparrow look sharp in goal and demonstrated good command over his back line although he was not really tested beyond a couple of easy saves.
Andrew Brody continues his conversion to right fullback and demonstrated an ability to get up the right side of the field and combine with Maikel Chang in the attacking third. At times, however, he seemed to forget his defensive duties and made several cheap turnovers on negative balls and was forced to chase back at full speed by attacking UVU winger.
Besler and Gallagher seemed comfortable with each other in central defensive providing an effective screen for Sparrow and controlled the central portion of the defensive third.
Kalen Ryder, who was signed by the Monarchs earlier in the day, stepped right into the starting lineup on the left side and combined with Josh Heard for the only goal of the game in the 12th minute. Coming off a 2017 season where he made 31 starts and amassed 2774 minutes with the Jacksonville Armada of NASL, Ryder appears well prepared to bring some additional height and bulk to the relatively small Monarch squad.
Right-footed Justin Portillo, joining from the Charleston Battery, and left-footed Charlie Adams looked sharp as a duo in front on the back line and stalled much of the central buildup by UVU before they could reach the main defensive line forcing the out to the sides. Justin took most of the corner kicks and aptly demonstrated that he and Charlie will both be large set piece threats throughout the season.
Jose Hernandez, down on loan for RSL, was easily the player who struggled the most trying to find the game and effectively contribute. He slowly played himself in the flow of the game, but had a large number of negative passes in the first half and struggle to link up with the front three through much of the match. Moving much more into the offensive third late in the match he helped force UVU back on the heels late in the match as their legs began to tire.
Josh Heard, another new signing who spent the past two years as a defensive midfield substitute with Bethlehem Steel, was a bit of a surprise starter in the front line. He has, however, been a standout in recent practices and proved his worth taking a low cross form Ryden and sending in a hard shot which was deflected up and off the cross bar. Ryden followed the deflection up with a poacher’s goal early in the game for the only score.
Maikel Chang, another new signing from the Charleston Battery, and Chandler Hoffman both had effective runs and showed signs of an emerging partnership on the front line with several great opportunities that were held off by the UVU goalkeeper and the standard.
James Moberg, Masta Kacher (a new signing from the Switchbacks) and Ricky Lopez-Espin came in on at the 76’ minute to provide a fresh legs and immediately led to much more chippy match and several late match altercations and standoffs. Karstin Hanlin amd Sebastian Velasquez also made late appearances but we unable to add to the score.
By the final whistle, the Monarchs had achieved one of their goals with a full 90 minutes for six of the starters (Sparrow, Besler, Hernandez down from RSL and Brody, Ryden, Portilloof the Monarchs). They also had a good run with a determined opponent to test integration of the many new players to the Monarchs side this year.