With Real Monarchs preparing to enter their third season of USL play, we're taking a look back at the short, but important, history of the club.
Beginnings of the Club
Officially announced in late 2014, Real Monarchs SLC joined the United Soccer League in the 2015 season. Along with them also came various other new clubs, including Saint Louis FC, Colorado Springs Switchbacks, Seattle Sounders II, and Portland Timbers II. Established as a bridge between the RSL-AZ Academy and Real Salt Lake, it also functions as an affiliate for RSL first-teamers to gain important starting minutes, as well as regain fitness following injuries.
The inaugural squad and coaching staff were filled out and announced in early 2015. Freddy Juarez was hired as the Monarchs first head coach, bringing a coaching staff including assistant coach Bingy Lara and goalkeeper coach Jeff Ginn. The inaugural Monarchs roster featured various RSL-AZ Academy prospects, including standouts Ricardo Velazco and Eti Tavares, as well as RSL trialists Emery Welshman and Lucas Baldin. Provo native Garrett Losee was signed following a special open tryout.
The Stadium That Never Was
Initial plans called for a brand new $18 million soccer-specific stadium for the Monarchs to be built at the Utah State Fairpark. These plans fell through due to leasing problems. Eyes were then turned to West Valley near the Maverik Center, but inspectors found fault lines that put an end to that as well. The club has called Rio Tinto Stadium home ever since.
The Inaugural Season
The 2015 season got off to a fairly rocky start, with a 0-0 draw in their very first match - away at LA Galaxy II on March 22. The team finally registered their very first win on April 29 (their seventh match of the year), a 1-0 victory over former RSL man Justin Braun and Sacramento Republic FC. Along the way in 2015, the Monarchs managed a US Open Cup victory over Long Island Rough Riders before being eliminated in the following round by Colorado Springs. Led by playmakers Max Rauhofer, Emery Welshman, and Ricardo Velazco, the 2015 campaign was rounded out by a five-match winning streak to end the year, which included eliminating rival Arizona United from playoff contention. The Monarchs finished up 2015 with a record of 7 wins, 8 draws, and 13 losses - last place in the 12-team Western Conference.
Season Two - 2016
The 2016 campaign got off to a much more positive start, with the team traveling to Costa Rica for preseason training. A friendly match against Costa Rican powerhouse Saprissa even saw the Monarchs pull a 1-1 draw. The regular season kicked off at home on March 26 in a match against Saint Louis FC. A 1-0 win to begin the season on a stoppage time goal by Maikon Orellana, which became a secondary story to a very scary incident which saw Omar Holness suffer a seizure on the field while awaiting a free kick.
The team would see mixed success throughout the season, finishing up with ten wins, six draws, and 14 losses, finishing in 11th in the newly 15-team (following more expansion) West, but only missing the playoffs by four points on the final day of the season. Ricardo Velazco would shine all season long, being signed to the RSL first team late in the year. A disappointing US Open Cup rule change before the season disqualified the Monarchs (and all other MLS-owned teams) from contention.
The Post-2016 Overhaul
The 2016 offseason was a rough one for Monarchs fans, as many of the beloved players from the first two seasons were let go from the club. Good news finally picked up again in late December, as former New York Red Bulls skipper Mike Petke was named the new head coach of the Monarchs following Freddy Juarez' promotion to first team assistant.
Thus far the roster has begun filling out again, with additions such as former Portland Timber Nick Besler, Ghanaian forward Charles Boateng, and the return to the organization of former RSL man Sebastian Velasquez. 2017 also features the return of various late-2016 standouts such as Charlie Adams, Jesus Leal, and Amet Ramirez. As always, we can expect to see various RSL first-teamers loaned to the Monarchs from time to time. The past two seasons have seen Luke Mulholland, Jeff Attinella, Olmes Garcia, and many others don the Monarchs jersey.
Early in January 2017, it was announced that USL was granted official 2nd Tier status in US Soccer, directly under MLS.
So what does the future hold for the Monarchs? We’ll begin to find out April 1st, as the team opens their 2017 campaign at The Riot against a newly rebranded Phoenix Rising FC (formerly Arizona United).