I had to watch the game with Phoenix Rising several times to fully decided just what my impressions and takeaways from the match were. A perfect 3-0-0 record and 3 points on the road are never anything to brush aside. Yet for much of the game the Monarchs were outplayed on the pitch and seemed on the verge of giving up a goal or goals.
On the other hand the Monarchs have now made two trips on the road to locations where they lost during their stellar 2017 season and come away with a full 6 points. Only Oklahoma City and Colorado Springs remain to make it a possible four out of four.
In the early part of their fourth season, the Monarchs continue over come the road jinxes that seem to follow every successful team including their parent team Real Salt Lake whose fans shudder at the thought of a trip to Canada or Texas.
While expanding leagues like USL will continue to have new road trips and new stadiums, the Monarchs have already achieved that vital first victory in every location but Oklahoma City, where they are 0-3-0 at Taft Stadium and the pairing of Austin and San Antonio, two different teams but one the spiritual successor of the other, where they are 0-1-1. Plenty of reason to look ahead to July 21st and August 11th.
While we, as fans, would all like to see the Monarchs back the the flowing possession that characterized much of their 2017 season, it is only their third match and it takes time. We also need to realize the crucial part that the Monarchs play in the RSL family. They will have a squad that changes weekly with players down on load from RSL and up from the Academy taking a substantial amount of minutes.
But what of Saturday’s game you might ask. Connor Sparrow was fantastic in the first half, and just as good in the second, answering every question asked of him with one huge assist from the woodwork. This performance alone more than amply demonstrated that he is fully deserving of time in MSL and can also continue to urge the Monarchs forward.
Sebastian Velasquez merely did what he has done so often, taking the game by the horns and mastering it. It was his pushing through any opposition that got the Monarchs the only goal that they would need on the evening.
And of course, those two could not have done it alone, With a starting lineup consisting of four players down on loan from RSL (Danilo Acosta, Nick Besler, Aaron Herreraz, and Connor Sparrow), three new signings (Justin Portillo, Maikel Chang, and Josh Heard), and four veterans from 2017 (Chandler Hoffman, Sebastian Velasquez, Charlie Adams, and Michael Gallagher) the Monarchs went into a physical match in a hostile and noisy stadium and emerged with three points for the first time ever.
The early substitution for Acosta which left them with only two sets of fresh legs in the closing minutes and four yellow cards did much to show that while the technique is still coming together, their spirit remains that of the 2017 regular season champions
On to yet another new venue and challenge at Cheney Stadium in Tacoma in hot pursuit of another first victory and third straight road victory. Vamos Monarchs.