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How did the Monarchs contribute to yesterday’s US Open Cup match?

What does the squad selection of last night’s side say about development at RSL and our approach to the US Open Cup?

MLS: U.S. Open Cup Final-New York Red Bulls at Sporting KC Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Prior to the start of Wednesday’s match, there was some discussion on these boards and in other media about using the members of the USL leading Real Monarchs SLC squad in the US Open Cup. Laying aside the disappointing result for a moment, let’s take a more statistically and tactical look at the squad chosen by Mike Petke.

The 11 starters named last night at Rio Tinto, only one, Andrew Brody, has a USL contract. The other 10 are all signed to MLS contracts. If we include the bench, there are three USL contracts, Brody, Jake Leeker, and Michael Gallagher. The remaining 15 are all on MLS contracts, or exactly half of the 30 man MLS roster.

However, if you look at the average number of minutes played for RSL versus the average number of minutes for Real Monarchs, the 11 starters had played an average of 185 minutes for RSL and 257 minutes for Real Monarchs. It is only when you add in the bench that the average number of minutes played for RSL barely exceeds that for Real Monarchs (261 to 257).

Minutes Played for RSL and Real Monarchs in 2018

Name Contract MLS Appearances MLS Minutes USL Appearances USL Minutes Difference
Name Contract MLS Appearances MLS Minutes USL Appearances USL Minutes Difference
Connor Sparrow MLS 0 0 4 360 360.00
Adam Henley MLS 5 260 2 167 -93.00
David Horst MLS 5 312 2 180 -132.00
Taylor Peay MLS 0 0 3 260 260.00
Aaron Hererra MLS 1 1 3 242 241.00
Pablo Ruiz MLS 6 418 2 129 -289.00
Nick Besler MLS 8 468 3 270 -198.00
Jose Hernandez MLS 0 0 8 315 315.00
Ricky Lopez-Espin MLS 1 22 6 240 218.00
Andrew Brody USL 0 0 10 660 660.00
Luis Silva MLS 10 554 0 0 -554.00
Brooks Lennon MLS 13 1113 0 0 -1113.00
Alfredo Ortuno MLS 3 119 0 0 -119.00
Jake Leeker USL 0 0 5 450 450.00
Michael Gallagher USL 0 0 12 984 984.00
Danilo Acosta MLS 5 328 4 281 -47.00
Sebastian Saucedo MLS 10 360 0 0 -360.00
Corey Baird MLS 12 742 1 90 -652.00

At this point let me focus on something that you probably know, but may not have considered fully. RSL has 30 players on MLS contracts. In any single match a maximum of 14 of those 30 players can receive any playing time. This is just under 47% of the total squad. How and when do the remaining 53% get their playing time to stay sharp and develop experience in actual gaming situations?

The answer to this question is increasingly with the Real Monarchs. Look once again at the table above. Three of the starters last night, Connor Sparrow, Taylor Peay and Jose Hernandez, have MLS contracts, but have yet to see a single minute of time in an MLS match. Another two, Aaron Hererra and Ricky Lopez-Espin, have a single substitute appearance for 1 minute and 22 minutes respectively.

On the other hand ten of the starters from last night, the exception being Luis Silva, have multiple appearances with the Real Monarchs in 2018. Some off those appearances have just been to keep sharp and others have been to help rehabilitate injury, but those ten have a fair amount of time spent playing in USL matches.

From this point of view, they did play the “Monarchs” last night. However, this raises yet another question. How can the “Monarchs”, who have a 10-2-1 record so far this USL season struggle to the extent apparent last night to present a coherent style of play? The answer to this question lays in something Coach Petke mentioned in one of his early press conferences last season when asked about how he builds a winning team.

The “spine” of last nights squad was probably intended to be Connor Sparrow, David Horst, Nick Besler, Jesus Hernandez, and Luis Silva. Horst and Silva were to be the players with a lot of MLS experience who organized the offense and defense respectfully.

Sparrow has been put in a tough position by the season ending injury to Alex Horwath. He will not beat out Nick Rimando for starts in MLS, but at this point in his career what he needs to develop is time between the sticks. Last night was a part of that and his starts in USL as possible with the two schedules will continue that process.

Horst has a great deal of experience, but has been slowed by injury this season. His time with Peay was in the USL matches, but he is much better know for his size and positioning than for his recovery speed and quickness.

Besler spent last season playing as a defensive midfielder and captain for Real Monarchs and played his way into an MLS contract. However, this season he has spent the bulk of his time on field as a central fullback due to injury and need.

Hernandez has yet to win time in a MLS match but has three starts as a Monarch. In two he was the first person substituted off around the 60th minute, and he failed to distinguish himself in any of the three.

Silva is another experienced player, but never having played with the Monarchs lacked familiarity with many of the players who have seen the bulk of their time with the Monarchs. He is also another player not know for his speed.

Perhaps it is in his choice for the spine of last nights squad that Coach Petke can receive his criticism. None of the spine of this years RSL squad was included in the 18. A good part of the true spine of the Monarchs, who have built the record quoted above, were ineligible for last nights match due to age. Michael Gallagher is the only one who could be considered a spine of the Monarchs and he failed to see any time.

What can RSL do to develop depth at spine positions and still provide a positive winning experience for young and developing players in the bottom half of its MLS roster? Is having a veteran spine at the USL level such as Portillo, Velasquez and Hoffman, even if ineligible for US Open Cup, the way to go? What does this say about the long-term importance of the US Open Cup to RSL?

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