Reno 1868 FC has been the surprise team of this season in the USL. In only their first season of competition, they have scored 69 goals leaving both the Monarchs and Louisville in the Eastern Conference 16 goals behind at 53 for the season.
Dane Kelly leads Reno with 18 goals giving him a two goal lead over Enzo Martinez and three over Romario Williams and Chandler Hoffman for the USL golden boot. His partner up top, Antonie Hoppenot, follows with 11 goals. Midfielder Chris Wehan leads USL with 11 assists behind the two front runners.
The Reno defense led by Jimmy Ockford and Jordan Murrell have come up with 10 clean sheets this season to match the Monarchs, but have also allowed 33 goals in the other 19 matches compared to the Monarchs 29 goals allowed.
The Monarchs will need to show some offensive mojo to get any kind of result against a Reno squad that boasts a 9-1-4 record at home. Shots might be few are far between so the side which best demonstrates their league leading 20% conversion rate will likely emerge victorious.
Chander Hoffman and Juan Mare both found the net on Wednesday, while Daniel Haber, Andrew Brody and Chase Minter will have fresh legs for the Monarchs offense. Sebastian Velasquez, Charlie Adams and Nick Besler will need to contest high and attempt to protect the Monarchs back line against the speed of Reno’s forwards. Taylor Peay, Emilio Orozco and James Moberg should all feature in the revamped bak line structure for the Monarchs.
This will be the third match between the Monarchs and Reno 1868 FC which only joined USL this season. The overall series stands at 2-0-0 with the Monarchs winning both matches at Rio Tinto outscoring Reno 7-4 for a +3 goal differential. Although this is the first meeting between the two squads at Greater Nevada Field, the Monarchs did lose to Sacramento Republic FC in Reno last season in a preview match designed to build interest in the expansion Reno side.
What to watch for
The Monarchs can fast track their path to the first silverware of the season with a victory which will leave them with no more than two contenders remaining for 1st place in the USL Western Conference. A loss on Saturday to the Monarchs would leave Reno 8 points behind with only two matches remaining in their season.
Swope Park can remain alive 6 points behind with two matches remaining if both teams find a victory on Saturday. San Antonio FC would remain 8 points behind with three matches remaining if both emerge victorious on Saturday.
While the Monarchs will be finishing a three game week, Head Coach Mark Briggs has been able to provide rest for many of his starters. Reno last took the field on Saturday in a 6-1 thrashing of hapless Portland Timbers 2.
Look for Reno to press hard from the first whistle and attempt to exploit their speed advantage at every opportunity. The more times Dane and Hoppenot get the ball in the offensive third from Wehan the better for Reno’s chances.
The Monarchs best chance lies in a focus on defense in the midfield and the creation of quality chances. A repeat of the Sacramento match last Wednesday where the Monarchs trailed greatly in possession, but still managed to out shoot the Republic by a great deal would be ideal. Allow possession in the defensive half and far out on the wings, but tighten greatly in the center and around the box.
Look for goals, perhaps even a large number of goals, and an open game until late in the match but a draw would definitely still favor the visiting Monarchs.
Real Monarchs SLC: (4-2-3-1) Sparrow; Moberg, Peay, Orozco, Lachowecki; Besler, Adams; Minter, Velasquez, Brody; Hoffman
Reno 1868 FC: (4-4-2): Klabough; Richards, Colvey, Ockford, Murrell; Fernandes, LaGrassa, Wehan, Mfeka; Hoppenot, Kelly
When: Saturday, September 30, 8:00 pm MDT
Where: Greater Nevada Field — Reno, NV
Weather: 69 degrees, Clear