The Monarchs open a quick two match road trip tonight at Greater Nevada Field against the Reno 1868 FC. After a slow start in which they lost three of their first four matches in 2018, Reno has not lost a match since going 7-0-6 in the next thirteen. With 17 matches played, Reno has 28 points which is good for a tie with Swope Park Rangers for 4th place in Western Conference, however the Rangers have the tiebreaker due to more victories leaving Reno in 5th place.
While not the goal scoring powerhouse they were in 2017. Reno has scored 23 goals during their 17 matches in 2018 which is four below the Monarchs and a full 12 below league leading Cincinnati FC. 18 of these goals have come from shots inside the box with only a single goal as the result of a set piece. Brian Brown, a Jamaican forward who has been coming off the bench as a super-sub this season, and Danny Musovki, a second round 2018 MLS SuperDraft pick of the Earthquakes, lead Reno with 5 goals each. Jerry van Ewijk, brought in from Orange County, and Lindo Mfeka have each contributed 3 more.
With Matt Bersano spending more time up with San Jose, James Marcinkowski has taken over goalkeeping duties in Reno and has three clean sheets including both of Reno’s last two matches against San Antonio and Timbers II. Brent Richards at right fullback and Zach Carroll on the right center anchor what has turned into a surprisingly strong defensive line that has resulted in a goal differential of +3 despite the large drop in goals scored.
Without the simple overpowering attack and speed of last season, Head Coach Ian Russell has chosen a much more methodical and possession oriented style in 2018. After taking a full nine points from Reno during their three meeting in 2017 season, the Monarchs will have a more strategic challenge in 2018.
The Monarchs have had a full week to prepare for this match and will have Andrew Putna back from injury and Academy players back after the playoffs. With RSL on the road in Kansas City tomorrow night and continuing to have a large injury list, the players down on loan from the parent club will likely be limited. Sebastian Velasquez will also return following a two match suspension for his actions off the field in Kansas City.
Chandler Hoffman continues to lead as captain and with 6 goals on the season, but a total of 12 different players have found the net for the Monarchs. Kalen Ryden, Masta Kacher, Sebastian Velasquez, Maikel Chang and Jan Mare all have multiple goals and continue to fight for playing time.
Connor Sparrow will be with RSL in Kansas City, but Jake Leeker has looked sharp in his five starts conceding only a single goal a posting 4 clean sheets. The defense in front of him has been in flux with time given to several RSL players down on loan, but Michael Gallagher, Kalen Ryden, James Moberg, Andrew Brody are all healthy and able to to be selected. Ryden, in particular has been a iron man appearing in all 16 matches and putting in a good shift at center back last week against Fresno FC.
The Monarchs strength continues to be in the defensive midfield with the steady play and set pieces by Justin Portillo, who has also appeared in all 16 matches, aided by Charlie Adams and new signing Jack Blake.
Here are a couple of things to watch as this match begins to develop.
- Both teams will not hesitate to take advantage of a single mistake and then ride that lead to a victory. Between them the two teams have a total of 12 single goal victories. It will be important to get that first goal and, if not, to strike back quickly.
- Reno’s three losses came at home early in the season. They will focus on keeping this game close inthe first half and look to open it up in the second. How well the Monarchs can force play early in the game will go a long way to determining if that can come away with points.
- Going into their 17th match which will end the first half of their 2018 season, the Monarchs still have not started the same 11 in any two of the matches. Watch how well they manage to integrate any starters from the Academy and RSL and get them early touches. It will take a team effort with contributions from all to take points from Reno.
Join in on ESPN+ at 8:30 MT to see if the league leading Monarchs can continue to dominate one of their local rivals with a fourth consecutive victory.