Head Coach Jimmy Nielsen brings his OKC Energy squad into Rio Tinto on ten days rest following an eight day road swing through Cascadia where they went 1-1-1. Their sole victory came against bottom dwellers Portland Timbers 2 and the loss to Seattle Sounders 2 in Tukwila.
Overall the Energy’s 5-6-3 record leaves them 2 points out of playoff contention and in a three way tie with last weeks opponent, the Tulsa Roughnecks, and Phoenix Rising. On the road however, OKC struggles with a 1-5-2 record having their only victory against Timbers 2 during the recent road swing.
With an overall goal differential of -3, the Energy are lead in scoring by forwards Andy Craven with 4 goals and Alex Dixon with 3 goals. Wojciech Wojcik and Kyle Hyland have added two each.
Midfielder Miguel Gonzalez runs the show from the midfield and leads the Energy with 2 assists. He and Dixon also lead the team in appearances having been on the field in 13 of OKC’s 14 games.
Second year goalkeeper Cody Laurenti had been in the net for 12 pf the 13 matches with two clean sheets and 47 saves for the season. Anthony Wallace and Coady Andrews anchor the deensive line just in front of Laurenti.
The Monarchs continue to be led by Chandler Hofman’s 8 goals although he has not scored in the past three matches. Sebastian Velasquez has 6 goals while Nick Besler and Daniel Haber had 3 goals apiece.
Sebastian Velasquez remains second in assists for the Western Conference with 6 assists closely followed by Charlie Adams with 5. The Monarchs also remain tied for first in shot conversion rank at 21% with San Antonio and Charleston.
Five Monarchs have appeared in all 15 matches and continue to develop a chemistry which shines on the field. Nick Besler, who has played every minute this season, continues to shine as captain in front of a strong defensive line including Max Lachowecki, Michael Gallagher, James Moberg, Kyle Curinga and Taylor Peay. Conner Sparrow and Lalo Fernandez continue to impress in goal and have recorded five cleans sheets between them.
This will be the fourth meeting between the Monarchs and OKC Energy FC and the second match at Rio Tinto. The Monarchs were 2-0 victors in that 2015 match and have a 1-2-0 record overall against the Energy with a goal differential of -1.
What to watch for
In 2017 OKC has proven to be a much better team at home than on the road. Like many other USL squads they attempt to play for possession and hold the ball in the own end and build from there in an attempt to stay in road matches as long as possible. The Energy come into this match on 11 days rest which can be either a benefit with fresh legs for the high altitude or leave them a little out of synch.
The Monarchs, who have lost the lead in goals scored to a hot Reno 1868 squad who put up 9 goals in a single match earlier this week, will need to start strongly in search of an early goal and take the lead. If they can find the net in the first half their chances of extending their 8 game home winning streak and getting something out of this match should be very bright.
However, the Monarchs offensive has sputtered for the past couple of games due to injuries to sparkplugs Sebastian Valesquez and Charlie Adams, who returned last week only to suffer another injury. Hopefully sleeping in their own beds and playing in front of a home crowd can help them return to form.
With RSL going on a long break for Gold Cup you can expect to see at least one or two RSL players in the 18 as Coach Mike Petke looks to find minutes for his increasingly healthy parent club.
The temperature at kickoff is predicted to be 99 degrees, but should cool off 10 to 12 degrees during the match. A four for $20 offer is active for this match and the RSL Women will attend the post-match signing party with the Monarchs.
Real Monarchs: (4-2-3-1) Sparrow; Curinga, Peay, Moberg, Lachowecki; Besler, Hanlin; Brody, Velasquez, Haber; Hoffman
OKC Energy FC: (4-4-2): Laurendi; Kiarris, Daly, Andrews, Wallace; Rassmusen, Guzman, Bond, Barril; Craven, Dixon
When: Saturday, July 5, 7:00 pm MDT
Where: Rio Tinto — Sandy, Utah
Weather: 99 degrees, Sunny