After falling just short in a comeback attempt on Wednesday again Swope Park Rangers, the Monarchs are hoping to pull in some road points against Saint Louis FC and avoid their first two game skid of the season.
Due to their central location Saint Louis FC are the wanderers of the USL moving from the Eastern Conference to the Western Conference or vice versa for each of the past four seasons. With almost all matches being played within conference, this means that Saint Louis has faced a totally new set of teams each of the past four years traveling east one season and then west the next. No one will be more glad to see the 2019 split into three conferences more than Saint Louis.
Because of these switches in conference, the Monarchs and Saint Louis have only faced each other once at Rio Tinto in the opening match of the 2016 season. That match ended 1-0 in favor of the Monarchs as Maikon Orellana found the back of the net in the 90th minute for one of his five goals as a Monarch.
Head Coach Anthony Pulis, the son of current Middlesborough manager Tony Pulis, was signed at the end of November 2017 in an attempt to turn around a team that had failed to reach the playoffs in each of their first three seasons. 2017 had been a frustrating season which saw Saint Louis finish 12th in the Eastern Conference and finish with only 9 wins.
In their first fourteen matches of 2018 Saint Louis has compiled a home record of 3-1-2 and an overall record of 5-4-5 which is good enough for 8th place and the last sport in the playoffs. They have a home victory over Swope Park and a home tie against Timbers 2, both of which have caused the Monarchs difficulty this season.
While their offense has manged to create 17 goals in their fourteen matches, it has taken a large number of shots to reach that number and their conversion rate is a weak 12%. USL journeyman forward Kyle Greig lead Saint Louis with 6 goals witch are evenly distributed with 2 each on the right foot, left foot and head. Right Winger Joey Calistri had added another 4 goals including 2 in last week’s match against the Tulsa Roughnecks.
Lewis Hilton, an English player who spent the past two season with Charlotte Independence, provides the spark in the four man midfield and has created 25 chances this season along with 4 assists.
Sam Fink and Sean Reynolds have started all fourteen matches in central defense and have combined with goalkeepers Jake Fenlason and Tomás Gómez for 6 shutouts including all three wins and one of the ties at home at Toyota Field. Phanuel Kavita, a former homegrown signing with RSL has also seen steady playing time at right back.
The Monarchs come into the match with only three days rest and at the end of a extended road trip, but continue to prove they can create goals on the road. Chandler Hoffman had both goals on Wednesday and a hot streak from help propel the Monarchs to points and avoid the first two game skid of 2018.
Michael Gallagher was forced to leave the pitch on Wednesday giving Konrad Plewa his first regular season minutes which might spell issues for the Monarchs in central defense. Expect the Monarchs to come out in a deliberate style and look to lock up defensive positions early, before pushing forward and beginning a search for goals.
Once again expect 3-4 RSL players down on loan during the MLS break and they should see a fair number of minutes just as they did on Wednesday. The game kicks at 6:30 PM Mountain Time on ESPN+ which is 90 minutes after the Royals in North Carolina and long after the World Cup matches so end your long day of soccer with the Monarchs.