Since bowing out of the 2018 USL playoffs in the quarterfinals following a 1-0 loss to Reno 1868 FD, Real Monarchs SLC has undergone a number of changes in preparation for the 2019 season in the newly christened USL Championship.
New Coach - Martín Vásquez
Following a 15 year professional career which spanned a number of professional clubs in both Mexico and the United States, Vasquez spent time as an assistant coach at the LA Galaxy and Chivas USA in MLS before leaving to become the assistant to Jürgen Klinsmann at Bundesliga club FC Bayern Munich. Dismissed along with Klinsmann after a single season, Vasquez returned to MLS and spent a single season as head coach of Chivas before being called back by Klinsmann who had by then become head coach of the US Mens National Team. Following another change in staff, he elected to move down to the youth ranks and joined the RSL Academy staff prior to the 2011 U.S. Soccer Development Academy season.
Well acquainted with most of the youth prospects that have passed through the RSL Academy, it is expected that Vasquez will bring a new focus to bridging the gap between youth soccer programs and professional play, He favors a high energy up-tempo style of play that demands a great deal from his players and has assisted in an expansion of the Monarch’s USL roster and a move toward a younger squad.
New Central Spine
With the departure of Jake Leeker to Timbers 2, Connor Sparrow to Nashville and the move of Andrew Putna up to the parent RSL squad, the 2019 group is totally new with the addition of Todd Morton and Evan Finney from NCAA soccer and the possible inclusion of David Ochoa from the RSL Academy. Finney played the majority of the preseason, but time between the pipes should be hotly contested among all three with Ochoa perhaps being moved in a loan if he does not win enough minutes on the field.
The moves of Chandler Hoffman to Birmingham, Sebastian Velasquez to Korea and Justin Portillo up to RSL removed the top two all-time scorers for the Monarchs and the entire central spine of the 2018 squad. Without exception the players brought into squad for the 2019 season are younger and much less seasoned professionals.
Lionel Etoundi and Kyle Coffee look to compete for starting time at the point of the attack. Coffee comes into the squad from the University of Washington and, as a 2019 MLS SuperDraft pick, had an extended look with RSL in the preseason. Etoundi, an 18-year-old signing from the Cameroon, showed excellent instincts and a knowledge of the game during preseason, but it remains to see if he can adjust to life here in Utah and the step up in competition.
The least settled role is that of central attacking midfielder where newcomers Douglas Martinez, Luis Palma, Sam Brown and academy product Jordan Pena appear set to contend with the returning Jack Blake for time. Martinez and Palma hail from the same club in Honduras and showed the better chemistry during the preseason, but this remains very open as the season begins.
Central American signing Ricardo Avila appears to already be the heir apparent to Justin Portillo’s in as defensive midfield and showed good use of his size and passing skills during the preseason matches.
All told the 2019 USL Championship season is here and the Monarchs will be pressed to maintain their position as one of the playoff quality teams in the Western Conference. Join us for some great close to the action soccer at the Zions Bank Real Academy.