About to embark on a stretch of four consecutive road games that will take them into the month of September, the Monarchs have completed 17 of their 32 scheduled matches in the 2021 USL Championship season. As this is just over half way through their schedule, it is a good point to pause and evaluate the Monarch’s performance and progress toward various objectives for the season as a whole.
Standings and Record
Due to the pandemic enforced changes to the 2020 USL Championship season there was an argument expressed in the media and among fans that the Monarchs came into this season as defending champions. Locally much was said and done to build upon this idea early in the season, but through 17 matches the Monarchs have a 3-10-4 overall record for 13 points and sit dead last in the Mountain Division. They are 9 points under playoff level and every other team in the division has either 1 or 2 in hand on the Monarchs.
As 10 of the Monarchs’ first 17 matches took place at Zions Bank Stadium, the remaining schedule is road heavy. The Monarchs have yet to win on the road this season with a 0-5-2 record away from Herriman. Excluding the abnormal 2020 season mentioned above, the Monarchs previous low in victories was 7 during their first season in the league in 2015 through only 28 matches. While their chances of reaching the playoffs and beyond look dim, they can continue the season looking to move beyond that low of 7 victories and perhaps even the 10 victories in 2016.
Locating Young Talent Outside the RSL Family
The Monarchs retained only 3 players from their 2020 squad for the 2021 season electing to take a three fold approach to fielding a squad during the 2021 season.
The first part of this approach was to sign a number of younger players from around the world who might not be immediately up to MLS standards, but who might be able to move up with playing time and coaching. Twelve players have subsequently been signed from other organizations and teams. Three of the 2021 signings came with USL experience (Kyle Adams, Max Mata and Malik Johnson), another was drafted by RSL in the MLS Super Draft (Aris Briggs), Charlie Wehan was signed from college and the remainder were all from outside the United States.
Kyle Adams leads the Monarchs in minutes played at 1397 along with Sam Brown (retained from the 2020 squad) at 1190 and Malik Johnson at 1064. Only Ibrahim Bancé of the new international signings has over 1000 minutes with Kevin Saucedo next with only 431 minutes. USL experience has served the Monarchs well, but the organization may have a slight pass here because of ongoing issues with visas due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Giving Depth and Recovering RSL Players Meaningful Game Time
The second method of filling the Monarchs’ game day squad was to be loans of depth players and injured players on the Real Salt Lake roster down to the Monarchs for meaningful game time. This aspect has been quite successful with over half of the Monarchs goals being scored by players on loan from RSL. Milan Iloski leads the Monarchs with 4 goals while Justin Portillo, Douglas Martinez, Jeizon Ramirez, Noah Powder and Bode Davis have all provided goals while on loan to the Monarchs. Milan Iloski and Bode Davis are also among the Monarchs leaders in time on the field.
Testing RSL Academy Players Against Professional Competition
The third method of obtaining game day players was to bring players up from the RSL Academy. Prior to offering these Academy players a professional contract it is useful to see what that can in at the level of competition provided by the USL Championship and its full professionals.
While no single academy player had logged more than 900 minutes; Jeff Dewsnup, Jaziel Orozco, Daniel Flores, Francisco Martinez, Griffen Dillon, Gavin Beavers and Julio Benitez have all seen at least 100 minutes on the field and Jaziel Orozco was signed to the Monarchs’ roster. With the exception of the two goalkeepers and Orozco, the match contribution of these developing players has been slight, but each now know what life as a pro is like and the level at which they must compete.