As in previous years, the Real Monarchs 2018 opener featured a side with a large number of RSL players. Alex Horwath, Adam Henley, Nick Besler, Danny Acosta, Pablo Ruiz, and Corey Baird joined Michel Gallagher, Sebastian Valasquez, Chandler Hoffman and Monarch newcomers, Maikel Chang and Justin Portillo, in the starting 11. Connor Sparrow, Jose Hernandez and Ricky Lopez-Esplin also joined Charlie Adams, Kalen Ryden, Masta Kacher and Josh Heard on the bench.
The first five minutes of the match say both squads pushing forward attempting to get an earlier advantage and several fouls. Play was concentrated on the full turf side of the field cutting across the outfield of the baseball layout avoiding the temporary turf around the pitcher’s mound and 1st base.
in the 7th minute the Monarchs got the first good chance as Henley, Ruiz and Chang combined well up the right side before Chang set a beautiful cross over the heads of a couple of defenders from the area of the pitcher’s mound and found an onrushing Corey Baird on the left side. Baird’s header went back across the goal and found the bottom right corner for his first professional goal and a 1-0 Monarchs lead.
The next 10 to fifteen minutes saw Tulsa focused on long balls over the midfield in an attempt to play direct and test the Monarchs high back line. The Monarchs continued to build up both sides of the field and had several half chances, but failed to effectively get the ball under control in front of goal. Both defenses played with a great deal of physical contact, but referee Michael Cap seemed content to lead the squads play.
As the first half continued Henley, Ruiz and Chang combined to find the most success for the Monarchs up the right side of the field despite the poor condition of the field in the Roughnecks half of the field. Sharp movement off the ball led to several Monarch corners and a number of dangerous passes across the goal but the Monarchs failed to take advantage and find another score.
In the final 10 minutes of the first half Tulsa finally began to show some rhythm and created a couple of good chances, but still failed to force any real saves by Horwath. The Monarchs also began to find their connections up the left with Acosta making a couple of nice crosses into the box. A foul on Velasquez in the 42nd minute resulted in a dangerous free kick and couple of crosses. Two rapid fire shots by Velaquez and Chang in stoppage time forced Cerda to make a fantastic save, but resulted in no further scores before half.
The change of sides at halftime moved the temporary turf into the left side of the Monarchs defensive half. Both sides came out active and an early fly by on Horwath resulted in a early yellow card on Tulsa’s Jhon Pirez. Several minutes later a payback challenge from behind had Corey Baird seeing yellow and the tone for the second half was set.
Pablo Ruiz picked up a left ankle or foot knock soon after and Charlie Adams came on as a substitute to pair with Portillo in front of the back line. The Monarchs continued to have several good looks at the Roughnecks’ goal and broke into double digits in corner kicks.
Starting around the 58th minute the Roughnecks began to see more possession and look dangerous on offense. They created several good looks and a couple of corner kicks before Paris Gee beat Acosta on the left and sent a low cross into Joaquin Rivas who slotted it home to tie the match at 1-1 in the 61st minute.
The Monarchs’ responded well and play went back and forth until John Pirez pulled up with a hamstring and several altercations broke out as Riggs Lennon, the ex-Monarch, came on to replace him up top at striker. Continued chippy play led to yellow cards for Mircovik and Lennon for Tulsa and kept the Cap busy keeping the sides apart.
Neither sides showed any ability to maintain any possession or flow until the next set of substitutes came on with Josh Morton for Gee in Tulsa’s defense and Kaylen Ryden for Henley moving Acosta to the right side.
The Monarchs began to threaten around the 80th minute with another couple of great looks, but it was Tulsa who struck back as Riggs Lennon made contact with a deep cross from the newly arrived Morton. Horwath blocked this initial attempt, but a rebound went out to Rivas who buried his second and gave Tulsa the 2-1 lead in the 83rd minute.
Both sides then made immediate substitutions with Eti Taveras, another ex-Monarch, bringing fresh legs to the Roughnecks’ midfield and moving the side to a defensive stance with 6 midfielders. Mark Briggs decided to go for a reply and brought in Ricky Lopez-Espin on attack while removing Gallagher and moving to 3 in the back.
The move payed off for the Monarchs as another great cross from Chang found Hoffman in front of goal and equalized just as regular time ended. Then continuous offensive pressure resulted in another header down to Charlie Adams barely a minute later. who buried it for a 3-2 lead as stoppage time began.
Play continued for another couple of minutes and a two great opportunities for the Roughnecks, but it was not to be and the Monarchs walked off the field victors on the road in their 2018 opener.