Regional rivals Reno 1868 FC will return to Herriman for a second time this year on Saturday for the home leg of what has become a heated rivalry over that past several seasons. The earlier 4-0 victory over the Monarchs during the Wasatch Winter Cup is February remains fresh on the minds of both sides, but it is now the regular season and a step up in importance and focus. Prior to emerging victorious 1-0 in a first round playoff last season, Reno had failed to earned a point in Utah in their two previous visits. It is that playoff loss that will provide the greater motivation for this match.
In just their third season Reno, under head coach Ian Russell have amply demonstrated their ability to find the net and score goals. Lead by Dane Kelly’s 18 goals they put 75 goals on the scoreboard in 2017 to lead all of USL. Kelly left after their debut season but Reno followed that up with 56 goals including 16 by Brian Brown during a 2018 season which saw them move on to the Conference Semifinals.
However, despite having 3 of their first 4 matches at home in Greater Nevada Field, they have only a single point more than the Monarchs this season with a 1-0-3 record. Thier eight goals is only two over the Monarch’s total of 6, but they have not been shutout this season with 3 goals in their last match, 2 in a couple others and only 1 goal in the fourth.
The Monarchs, on the other hand, have been shutout twice and 5 of their 6 goals came in a single match against Los Dos. They, led by player of the month nominee, David Ochoa, also posted clean sheets in each of the two home matches and only allowed one goal in each road match. Brian Brown, at the top of the 1868 attack with 4 goals already, will be another strong test of the Monarch’s defensive structure.
This return home will also be a call to arms for what has been a stuttering offense. Midfielders Ricardo Avila and Luis Palma remain on the injury list, but Jordan Pena has returned from the injury list and could see time in a shifting Monarch’s midfield.
Discipline, in the form of yellow cards, remains another large concern as two Monarch starters, Jack Blake and Douglas Martinez, are among the 4 league leaders with 3 yellow cards apiece and 60% of the way to a accumulation suspension after only 4 matches. Only New Mexico United with 14 total yellow cards has more than the 13 accumulated by the Monarchs. Although far from the abundance received by parent Real Salt Lake, the Monarchs are also among the three teams with a single red card.
It was quickly apparent at Cashman Field last weekend, that even beyond the chippy and circus-like style of the Lights, the reputation of the Monarchs had been noted and many attempts were made to force decisions from referee’s who may not be that familiar with the team.
As is common during the first week in April rain is likely around the 1 PM kickoff, but performances so far this season seem to guarantee plenty of action on the field.