Tonight’s match against Rio Grande Valley is very much a trap match for the always changing lineup of the Monarchs. The Monarchs are coming off of an emotional victory at home against Sacramento Republic which saw Chandler Hoffman score his long awaited 50th goal in USL. The news and changes resulting for the situation with Mark Briggs have had time to sink in and affect team preparation and attitude.
In addition, RSL is in the midst of a very congested schedule of their own and will host Sporting Kansas City in a US Open Cup match on Wednesday evening. While a number of the Monarchs players remain ineligible due to age, it would not be surprising to see a least a few get their opportunity with the parent club. RSL players that might have seen time tonight on loan with the Monarchs may also be held for the open cup match.
The Toros arrive in Herriman with only 10 points out of 11 matches and a 0-3-1 record on the road in 2018. However, it is important to note that of those 10 points 7 came from ties. In other words, the Toros have lost only three of their eleven matches and all those were on the road at Weidner Field against the Switchbacks, Merlo Field against Timbers 2, and Cheney Stadium against Sounders 2.
In general, Rio Grande Valley is a very solid team that could be in a very different position in the standings with just a little luck. With only 13 goals on 126 shots in their eleven matches, the Toros have struggle to be efficient offensively. 23-year-old Mexican playmaker and forward Aldo Quintanilla, who signed this spring, leads with 4 goals in his 9 appearances. Todd Wharton, a frequent captain who is in his third season with the Toros in the defensive midfield, is the only other player with multiple goals at 2.
As might be expected from the number of ties, Rio Grande Valley has allowed only 14 goals this season in comparison to the 13 they have scored. Along with four clean sheets, the Toro’s defense has been a strength keeping scores within manageable differences. Rio Grande Valley’s sole victory was by two goals. Each of their three losses was by only a single goal. They do not get blown out of games. They have given up leads late in matches but they have not had to fight and scratch to come back from large holes.
The Monarchs are still very much a team of 18 to 20 players without a constant roster alignment and a standout goal scorer or defender. It is very difficulty to pick a complete starting roster as the have yet to start the same 11 players in any of their 12 matches.
The release of Karsten Hanlin this morning left the Monarchs with only 17 players under USL contracts and futher changes should be expected. The Monarchs have frequently made additions during the summer transfer window and the emergence of academy talent such as Richie Ledesma who got a start against Sacramento will only add to this churn.
This can be fine-edged sword in that you lack the instinctual knowledge that comes from long association, but you also make it next to impossible for the opponent to prepare a game plan to should down and individual player or players. You can point out that competition for places and frequent changes in starters adds to the competitive spirit of the team. You can also argue that it can lead to a lack of veteran leadership.
Here are three things to consider as you join us for family Monday at Zions Bank Stadium.
- Look for academy players in the starting lineup. The Monarchs are at home and school is out. RSL is busy and MLS roster players may not have availability due to the US Open Cup match. Fielding every single player with a USL contract will still leave the team short of a full 18.
- The Monarchs can come back in matches. They have proven this in previous matches and are playing a side that does allow teams to come back to tie or win. While it is far preferable that the Monarchs come out hand and involved. An early goal against the Monarchs probably will not spell the trouble it could against other teams.
- Rio Grande Valley will be entirely content to play to a 0-0 draw on the road. Look for them to play a very defensive game and force the Monarchs to push the pace of the game and the scoring. If for no other reason, the Monarchs forward players will need to be active and see the ball on a frequent basis. Build up and development early will play dividends in the long run.