After finishing just a single point behind first place Swope Park Rangers in both sides inaugural season in 2016, Rio Grande Valley FC has struggled in 2017. Currently tied for 11th place, but only three points behind the final playoff spot, the Toros have a -8 goal differential and struggle offensively on the road where the differential increases to -13.
Rio Grande Valley FC have allowed 37 goals so far this season which is 5th highest in the Western Conference. Coupled with the 29 Yellow Cards, lowest in the Western Conference, they have received so far this season you see a defense that depends greatly upon offensive possession and plays in a relatively slow and deliberate method while in possession. The Toros are also 5th in the number of passes and 4th in passing accuracy while falling to 10th in shots and 13th in goals scored.
Ruben Luna and Kyle Murphy lead the Toros with 4 goals each while five other players have contributed 3 goals a piece. A decidedly right-footed offense Rio Grande Valley rarely scores from the left or outside of the box and only a single goal has been scored from a set piece play the entire 2017 season.
With a home field at only 29 ft in elevation the Toros have a mixed record this season when playing at higher elevations. They lost 3-2 at Reno in June, but emerged 1-0 victors at Weidner Field in Colorado Springs on July 1st.
This will be the fourth meeting between the Monarchs and Toros who each have a 1-1-1 record against each other and have scored 3 goals. The Monarchs sole victory was earlier this year in Edinburg while the only match in Rio Tinto einded with a Toro victory.
What to watch for
The Monarchs are within range of earning their first trip to the USL Cup Playoffs on Friday. A victory against the Toros coupled with an Orange County SC win against OKC Energy FC, would put the Monarchs into the postseason.
If new signing Nick Besler starts to see significant time in the 18 man roster of RSL, expect to see changes in the Monarchs lineup. They have no direct replacement for him in the current roster and will likely shuffle positions to accommodate It will also be interesting to see who takes possession of the captain’s armband in his absence.
Look for Danny Cruz, who made his debut on the road last week, to continue to feature and perhaps get a start at right wing. Chandler Hoffman, now 3rd in the USL Golden Boot, has a prime opportunity to catch up with or pass Romario Williams who is a single goal ahead of him but suspended this week for yellow card accumulation.
Above all expect the Monarchs to press in an attempt to maintain and extend their undefeated home records where they are 11-0-1 this season and undeafeated in their last 17 matches.
Real Monarchs: (4-2-3-1) Sparrow; Curinga, Moberg, Peay, Lachowecki; Besler, Adams; Minter, Velasquez, Cruz; Hoffman
Rio Grande Valley FC: (4-2-3-1): Carducci; Greene, Bilyeu, Magalhaes, Hunter; Wharton, James; Holland, Bird, Casner; Murphy
When: Friday, August 25, 7:00 pm MDT
Where: Rio Tinto — Sandy, Utah
Weather: 91 degrees, Sunny