The penultimate matches of the 2019 USL Championship playoffs have arrived. After two scoreless draws during the regular season only Real Monarchs SLC or El Paso Locomotive FC can emerge victorious on Saturday and move on to the Championship Final and face the Eastern Conference champion.
As the 6th seed in the Western Conference, El Paso has a strong underdog demeanor and have used it to good effect in their victories over Fresno FC and Sacramento Republic FC in the earlier round of the playoffs. However, Fresno came into the playoffs in dismal form and Sacramento qualified below El Paso which allowed El Paso to host their semifinal match.
Sebastian Velasquez, the former RSL and Monarchs player, has become a driving force since joining El Paso mid-season and a key figure in the his new community following the tragic shooting of many at a local Wal-Mart. Sebastian is very familiar with many of the current Monarchs and their home field at Zions Bank Stadium.
Velasquez was quite critical of his former team in a quote published on the USL Championship website: “Obviously, I was very disappointed, I was very upset because everyone knew that I was the best player on that team, and I don’t say it with any hesitation... Every time you ever watched a game with the Monarchs a lot of people would be talking about Sebastian this, Sebastian that, the creativity, the form he’s in. And then when RSL was signing players they would sign other players. Obviously, I think they deserved their opportunities as well, maybe those positions needed to be filled which is great for them, but at the end of the day I was thinking that I was going to get another opportunity to go back to MLS, get back on the first team and that’s kind of how I was sold to get back to the Monarchs in the first place. And it just never happened. So, in my mind, that’s kind of all fuel for me to come out and perform well and have a great match and create chances and score my goals that will hopefully take us to the Final.”
Conversely the Monarchs have approached this match in their typical business-as-usual manner. Jamison Olave is in his second stint as Interim Head Coach and sees a great deal of growth over last season, Integration with parent Real Salt Lake seems to have improved greatly and players down on loan have proven critical as Andrew Putna, David Ochoa, Erik, Holt, Tate Schmitt, Luke Mullholland and Justin Portillo seamlessly meshed with Kalen Ryden, Jack Blake, Maikel Chang, and Noah Powder to push the Monarchs to a 10-4-5 record with a +16 goal differential since he was named interim this season.
Coming off a second straight away victory over 2019 USL Shield winner Phoenix Rising in Tempe, the Monarchs are within reach of their first trip to the Championship final and will have their opportunity to show that they are ready to play and win.
The match kicks at 1 PM in Zions Bank Stadium and tickers are still available A large pre-match tailgate will be hosted by the Wasatch Legion and a number of food trucks will also be present for your lunch needs prior to the match. Join us for a superb afternoon of football. The match will also be live streamed on ESPN+.