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The Real Questions: A three-team, three-game weekend

For the first time since October, Utah Royals FC, Real Salt Lake and Real Monarchs SLC play this weekend.

Lucas Muller - RSL Soapbox

Soccer is, in a sense, back, and with that comes the return of Real Questions. For the first time since October, all three of Utah’s professional teams are slated to play games this weekend, with Real Monarchs on Saturday, RSL and Utah Royals on Sunday night so let’s talk about them.

Real Salt Lake: What will this team look like with no Nedum Onuoha?

Reports, later confirmed by Real Salt Lake, emerged that center back Nedum Onuoha will not be traveling to Orlando to play in the MLS is Back tournament. This, ultimately, was the personal decision from Onuoha, who didn’t feel comfortable leaving his wife and kids for a month to play a tournament in a pandemic.

In RSL’s two games prior to the league suspending play for COVID-19, Onuoha was the only center back to start both games, with Marcelo Silva starting one and Justen Glad starting the other game. Likely, both Glad and Silva will start the MLS is Back tournament games, but this does leave some worry in the strength of RSL’s backline.

Onuoha brought a veteran presence to this younger Real Salt Lake team, he is the most experienced member of RSL’s backline and one of the most experienced members of the squad. His absence will be an important thing to keep watch on throughout this tournament.

Utah Royals FC: How can Utah sneak their way into a high seed in the NWSL Challenge Cup?

Relatively speaking, the group stage of the Challenge Cup isn’t the most important, as all the teams make it to the knockout round. However, a high seed could be crucial to Utah’s success. At the halfway point of group play, Utah finds themselves in third place, tied on points for second but behind on the goal differential tiebreaker.

Utah has OL Reign and Chicago Red Stars, who are both winless so far, left to face in group play. Getting a draw or win against both these teams should easily get Utah a seed in the top half of the table and would make their knockout round games significantly easier. The Red Stars especially aren’t doing as well as NWSL fans may have anticipated in this tournament, and getting 3 points against them could be crucial to the ease of Utah’s group stage games.

Real Monarchs SLC: What should we expect from the USL champions on opening weekend?

Real Monarchs SLC played just one game before their season ultimately got paused in March. We got a glimpse at this team, but after months off and ultimately a second preseason, what is this team going to look like going forward?

This team is going to look quite different from the end of 2019. The team you saw lift the USL Championship Trophy is missing some key parts to it now. Captain Jack Blake, James Moberg, and Noah Powder, who were all key parts of the run, are returning, but there are also a lot of new faces. RSL’s 2020 SuperDraft picks Michael Wetungu and Dayonn Harris are expected to be a part of the roster, as well as two former academy players, Steve Jasso and Jordan Pena, who are still with the club and should see some more minutes this year.

This Monarchs side is still anticipated to be dominant in the USL, though. Coached by Jamison Olave, this team still has the talent to make a run back to the USL Championship playoffs, it will just be with some different faces.