With a total of 14 matches now played it is time to assign a second midterm grade to Real Monarchs SLC. The Monarchs will play 34 matches during the 2019 USL Championship regular season. As 34 cannot be equally divided in 8 parts, I chose to make the first term cover initial ten matches while each of the remaining terms will cover 8 matches apiece.
Appearances by young players from the academy was limited during June as David Ochoa, Jordan Pena, Steve Jasso, and Delentz Pierre all spent time with the U18/19 academy squad at the USSDA Playoffs. Joseph Stanley Okumu was called up to the senior Kenyan national team for the African Cup of Nations and has played a full 90 minutes in each of the teams first two group matches. Captain Jack Blake was also missing due to injury for much of the month.
18-year-old David Ochoa still remains stalled at seven starts for the Monarchs due to participation at the U-20 FIFA World Cup and then the USSDA playoffs. Both Andrew Putna and Alex Horwath having been covering at goalkeeper and are up to 3 matches apiece as they attempt to stay sharp for possible appearances with parent RSL.
Andrew Brody, who missed a start when he was called up to RSL for the US Open Cup match with LAFC, and Noah Powder remain among the leaders in minutes played and serve to anchor the outside of the defensive line. Noah had a fantastic direct free kick late in the home match with Rio Grande Valley FC to seal the home victory. Delentz Pierre and Steve Jasso will continue to fight for time here as they return from the USSDA playoffs and recover from some knocks.
The two central defender positions remain very fluid with frequent rotation in the starters due to loans down from RSL, injury and the call up for Okumu. Although the Monarchs continue to struggle at times to clear their lines and move upfield, progress is apparent and should continue to grow with time and more matches.
The midfield remains the thinnest part of the Monarchs’ USL roster and productive appearances by loanees Tate Schmitt and Justin Portillo have helped to cover the loss of Jack Black. The return of Ricardo Avila from injury also provided a sense of bite in the midfield and Kyle Coffee has added quality minutes off the bench. Luis Palma, Jordan Pena and Luis Arriaga should all provide depth and competition as they return to the Monarchs.
A great deal of effort is on consistent display, but the midfield continues to struggle to effectively hold possession in the midfield and move the ball up the field through possession. However, in recent matches the response to high pressure from their opponents has begun to improve and further development should serve to lower the 2.5 goals per game allowed over the past four matches.
Maikel Chang continues to direct the offense and with 12 shots on target and six goals, but Douglas Martinez has began to heat up and provide results that match his effort. Josh Heard and Masta Kacher continue to add a touch of speed and punch to the attack if though the results are not yet being seen in the scoreboard. The average of 2 goals per match is higher than it was for the initial six matches, but still falls short of the 2.5 allowed per match.
Over the past four matches the goals scored per match has moved up to match the 2.5 goals allowed and shows definite signs of continuing to increase. The Monarchs first road win against the Switchbacks was due to constant pressure by an offense that would not be denied even though on the road.
With a record of 5-6-3 across the first fourteen matches the Monarchs have only moved up one place to 14th during the past four matches, but they still have at least two games in hand over all the other teams near them in the standings. Only Sacramento Republic FC have play the same number of matches in the entire Western Conference.
Even with the expansion to 18 teams this season, it is very likely that the Monarchs can still make the playoffs if they continue to take care of business at home and put together several multi-game winning streaks. The past two matches provided the first road victory and the first 2 game winning streak.
in summary, their focus on direct development of young players was deferred during June as player were engaged in other competitions, but should come back to the forefront with the heavier schedule during the remainder of the summer. However, despite a 2-2-0 record in their past four matches there are definite signs of changes to come which leave the side with an overall grade of B.
In the next four:
The next four matches will break the pattern of alternate home and roads games. It will begin with a second road match in row against the Roughnecks in Tulsa this weekend, then two straight home matches against New Mexico United and Tacoma Defiance before finishing with a road match in El Paso against the Locomotive.
The matches against the Roughnecks and Defiance are the first meetings this season and seem to be good candidates for a couple of victories. The home match against New Mexico United at home on the 6th should provide the Monarchs a good test and a chance to prove that the 5-1 loss earlier this season in Albuquerque was not indicative of the two teams. It will also come just 4 days before the match between New Mexico and the MLS Minnesota United in the US Open Cup quarterfinals which could prove to be a distraction. The trip to El Paso will be a first for the Monarchs and and match teams that fought to a 0-0 draw in the home opener back in March.
Three major items to keep an eye on over the next four weeks are a continued improvement in goal differential, the return of the younger academy players to the lineup and how successful the Monarchs are at keeping their players healthy and on the pitch.