The Monarchs came out with a starting lineup of Chandler Hoffman up top; Josh Heard, Maikel Chang, and Sebastian Velasquez in the attacking midfield; Justin Portillo and Jack Blake in defensive midfield; Kalen Ryden and Andrew Brody along with Taylor Peay and Adam Henley down on loan from RSL in the back four; and Jake Leeker in goal. Ryden moved into the left center to join Peay in an attempt to add speed and jumping ability in central defense. Andrew Brody was at left fullback and, along with Josh Heard, received the assignment to slow the right sided offense of Phoenix.
The game was a “Christmas in July” promotion with a summer Santa who was ensconced on the Royals throne in a floral shirt and shorts. He also joined the march out which was a flurry of Santa hats along with clips from various movies and song celebrating the season.
Just a couple of minutes into the match Taylor Peay went up for an early header and landed awkwardly. After rocking and then taking his time getting up, he had the crowd holding their breath but went on to have a great match
Both teams played with very high back lines for much of the first half greatly compressing the field into about 40 yards at midfield. During the first 15 minutes both teams seemed unable to find a way to exploit this situation as they attempted a number of long crosses and high balls up and over in an attempt to free a player in on goal. Most of the balls went long on the fast field and ended in harmless goal kicks although there were also a number of offside calls.
Justin Portillo was forced deep by an early high press by the Rising which seemed designed to put pressure on Peay and Ryden and force mistakes from the Monarchs as they attempted to clear their own half. The Monarchs struggled to string a series of passes together for the initial 15 minutes but gradually worked out that their was clear space on the wings and began to use Brody and Henley more effectively in getting the ball into the attacking half.
In the fifteenth minute a good set piece from about 25 to 30 yards out taken by Jack Blake came down nicely and forced Phoenix goalkeeper Carl Woszczynski to make a leg stop for the first real test of the match.
By twenty minute in both sides were beginning to get a feel for the game and make serious attacks forward. Andrew Brody was forced into a saving clearance at the top of the box when Billy Forbes make a nice layoff to a open Rising player at the top of the box in the 22nd minute. Seconds later Rising had another nice cross into the box only the have Forbes send it high over the net.
The first goal of the match came in the 36th minute when Adam Henley made some good penetration into the Rising defense on the right side and found Sebastian Velasquez with a low cross which he drove into the net past Woszyzynski. It was the 4th goal in his last three appearances and let him take over the team lead with seven goals.
Phoenix pressed hard and had a couple of half chances that Jake Leeker managed rather easily before the Monarchs struck for their second goal of the half. Maikel Chang to the ball deep into the box before laying the ball back off to an onrushing Chandler Hoffman whose shot deflected off Mike da Fonte and gave the Monarchs a 2-0 lead going into halftime.
While the Monarchs seemed to never have the majority of play they finished the first half with exactly double the number of passes made by the Rising (246-123) and Phoenix finished without a shot on goal.
Phoenix came out with determination in the second half and had several very good chances in the first seven minutes with making the final connection and getting the desired goal. Then the Monarchs once again seized the momentum and began to create a series of good chances of their own until Maikel Chang was taken down around the 60th minute right in front of the Monarchs bench.
A few pushes and words between Chang and Awako escalated to the point that the teams gathered to air their grievances with each other and the referees stepped in. Awako was shown a red card and Chang a yellow. Phoenix was already playing short handed due to de Fonte needing treatment for visible blood and the match turned strongly toward the Monarchs.
Although it took another five minutes the Monarchs got their third goal when Jack Blake found Chandler Hoffman breaking into the goal in the 66th minute for a 3-0 lead.
With nothing to lose Phoenix switched to a three man back line and pressed hard for a goal once again but although play moved to the Monarchs side of the field, the Monarchs held firm for a time. Then in the 76th minute Kalen Ryden was hit by a cross and deflected the ball into the goal to give Phoenix a glimmer of hope.
The game became chippy with a number of yellow cards shown to both sides before Andrew Brody sealed the victory with a ball off the top crossbar and down into the net area which was debated for a short while until the goal was awarded.
With the victory and a draw for Orange County SC and a loss for Reno 1868 FC end the week with a six point lead over Phoenix and 7 points over both Orange County and Reno. With Reno coming to town on Wednesday, August 8th, the Monarchs have a chance to further extend both their home winning streak and avenge their loss at Greater Nevada field earlier this month.