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Real Monarchs SLC vs. San Antonio FC: Cresting a Ridge

With a victory the Monarchs can qualify for the playoffs and establish an initial base camp to begin their assault on USL Cup 2017.

J Engels Photography

After failing to qualify for the playoffs in their first two seasons, the Monarchs can reach that milestone for the first time with a victory on Saturday night against a San Antonio FC squad that sits at second place in the Western Conference. While this checkpoint may have seemed distant back during the storms and fluffy coats of March, it now seems appropriate for the Monarchs to crest that initial ridge and gaze directly upon their final goal of USL Cup 2017.

San Antonio FC has suffered only two losses during 2017 with both coming on the road and at elevation in Colorado Springs and Reno. The 10 point difference between the two squads derives from the number of ties as the Monarchs have only 4 ties while San Antonio has 9.

San Antonio is a, if not the, defensive leader in the USL allowing 13 goals through their 23 matches so far this season. With 13 clean sheets, they have allowed 2 goals only three times this season; to Seattle Sounders 2 and Reno 1868 on the road and to the Monarchs at home on Toyota Field.

On the offensive side, San Antonio has scored 31 goals, which is good for 15th in the league, but struggles to find the net on a consistent basis. Their passing accuracy sits at 76% which leaves them in the bottom third of the league and their 244 shots is only good for 25th in the league..

Billy Forbes, who spent last season with Sebastian Velasquez at Rayo OKC, still leads San Antonio with 7 goals, but only one has been scored since April. Kris Tyrpak, who spent 2016 with the Swope Park Rangers, follows with 6 goals including both of the goals San Antonio across all four matches in August.

Diego Restrepo, who took over for an injured Matt Cardone earlier this year, has seized the opportunity and leads the league with 10 clean sheets and was voted the USL Mid-Season Goalkeeper of the Year. Sebastien Ibeagha, another Rayo OKC veteran and holdover Stephan McCarthy have combined for an incredible 236 clearances in the center of the back four while Greg Cochrane and Ben Newnam have another 103 on the left and right.

The Monarchs are the only team to score multiple goals against San Antonio this season at Toyota Field coming from behind twice to ensure the draw on July 22nd. Additional the Monarchs have scored 2 or more goals every home match at Rio Tinto this season with the exception of the 0-0 draw with Tulsa.

Once again the Monarchs will need to rely on an explosive offense lead by Chandler Hoffman, Sebastian Velasquez and Daniel Haber to set the tone and pace early in the match. The Monarchs had only 45.6% of the possession and were badly out shot during the earlier match and were saved only by converting both shots on goal they managed to create.

Match History

This will be the third match between the Monarchs and San Antonio FC. The Monarchs finished 2-0 victors in the only 2016 meeting on at Rio Tinto. The second meeting earlier this season at Toyota Field ended in a 2-2 draw leaving the Monarchs with a 1-0-1 record all time.

What to watch for

The Monarchs can reaffirm their leadership of the Western Conference with a victory over 2nd place San Antonio increasing their lead to at least 13 points with both San Antonio and Reno 1869 having only 8 matches remaining and Swope Park with only 7 matches.

The return of Nick Besler as a guest player from parent RSL who has this week off, remains a strong possibility and would help to solidify the Monarchs defense. Other pla

Look for new signings Danny Cruz and Juan Antonio Mare to make the 18 man lineup along with Diego Calvo who has yet to make an appearance.

Above all expect the Monarchs to press early in an attempt to take a lead and avoid having to force open a very tight San Antonio defense that is very prone to pull back in and look for an opportunity on the counter. If they wish to maintain and extend their undefeated home record of 11-0-1 this season they will need to score and it may as well come early in the match.

Expected lineups

Real Monarchs: (4-2-3-1) Sparrow; Curinga, Moberg, Peay, Lachowecki; Besler, Adams; Haber, Velasquez, Brody; Hoffman

San Antonio FC: (4-2-3-1): Restrepo; Hendrick, Ibeagha, McCarthy, Cochrane; NReed, Castillo; Tyrpak, Vega, Forbes; Ajeakwa

Match info

When: Saturday, September 2, 7:00 pm MDT

Where: Rio Tinto — Sandy, Utah

Weather: 89 degrees, Sunny

Broadcast: www.RSL.com/Monarchs w/ Landon Southwick & Carla Haslam