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Real Monarchs 2016 USL season preview

Real Monarchs placeholder 8

Year founded (first in the league): 2015

Affiliation: Real Salt Lake

2015 record, standing in conference: 7-13-8, 12th in Western Conference

2015 playoffs: Did not qualify

Key additions: Amass Amankona, Andrew Brody, Jonny Caparelli, Kevaughn Frater, Max Lachowecki, Colin Rolfe, Chris Schuler, Elder Torres

Key departures: Lucas Baldin, Max Rauhofer, Emery Welshman

Projected/ideal starting XI (4-3-3): Lalo Fernandez; Tyler Arnone, Chris Schuler, Emilio Orozco, Max Lachowecki; Alec Sundly, Lennon Celestino, Amass Amankona; Eti Tavares, Colin Rolfe, Ricardo Velazco

It took until the final weeks of the season for Real Monarchs to string together two wins, and five consecutive wins wasn't enough for the team to make the playoffs. In fact, the team ended in a fairly dismal last place in the Western Conference, but the story shifted as the season drew to a close. It took improvements from all parties, both on the coaching staff and among playing personnel, to figure things out.

Part of that success came from getting the most of its squad, and that's been the subject of some change. Real Monarchs have parted ways with three players who earned significant minutes for the club in 2015, including leading goalscorer Max Rauhofer. But the imbalance of last year seems to have been solved, and the Monarchs are walking into the season with a newfound balance among the group. Additionally, they've been able to recruit former Real Salt Lake center back Chris Schuler, who could provide some newfound veteran gravitas to the group.

Why you should watch Real Monarchs in 2016: In 2015, Real Monarchs started as nothing particularly special to watch, but by season's end, they morphed into a lethal attacking side. With improvements to the attacking half of the squad, they're set to continue that trend.

3 Players to watch

Chris Schuler: The RSL veteran joins Real Monarchs on the back of a long injury layoff, and he's looking to return to fitness over the course of the USL season.

Amass Amankona: To say this young midfielder is a diminutive creator probably undersells both of those qualities: Early minutes during RSL's preseason showed him to be a tricky, exciting player.

Alec Sundly: This 2014 MLS draft pick looked to be one of the most professional players on Real Monarchs; at 23, he has an excellent chance to make the jump to the first team if he has an even better season.

The 2016 season will be a success if… Real Monarchs make the playoffs and pull together a road few road wins. While development for Real Salt Lake is still the focus, even a glimmer of success will be a huge improvement.

Relevant links

Real Monarchs section on RSL Soapbox

Breaking down the Real Monarchs roster

Real Monarchs schedule released