By CHARLIE CORR – firstname.lastname@example.org
Tuesday, March 15, 2016
Real Monarchs SLC provided a glimpse late last season of its potential to be a force in the Western Conference. Clubs still in the running for the USL Playoffs ran into a locomotive at Rio Tinto as the Monarchs won their final five games – four of them in Sandy, Utah. Freddy Juarez’s side finished last in the Western Conference despite the run, but after enduring an extensive learning curve, the youthful club cannot be taken lightly heading into its second season.
Head Coach: Freddy Juarez
Stadiums: Rio Tinto Stadium, Ute Soccer Field and Aces Ballpark
2015 results: 7-13-8; 12th in Western Conference
2015 postseason: Did not qualify for USL Playoffs
Goalkeeper: Eric Osswald manned the goal for approximately a third of the Monarchs’ inaugural season and returns to the team for 2016. Of the trio of goalkeepers Juarez utilized in 2015, Osswald allowed the least amount of goals per game – nine goals in eight matches (1.12 average) while earning two wins and three draws. Last year, the first team loaned Lalo Fernandez to the Monarchs and he saw the most time with 18 appearances. Fernandez joined the Monarchs during their preseason trip to Costa Rica. Former Real Salt Lake AZ Academy player Christian Hererra was set to join the Monarchs, but in early February RSL loaned the young goalkeeper to Liga MX’s Pachuca.
Defense: The back line endured probably the most growing pains of the Monarchs’ first season, and with a year under their belt, a number of returning players hope to make a stronger statement right out of the gate. Left back Riley McGovern, center back Emilio Orozco and right back Tyler Arnone each had their share of starts, with McGovern logging the most minutes (1,979) and games (26). Darion Copeland also had six starts last season.
Midfield: Returning midfielders Ricardo Velazco and Alec Sundly provided some flexibility last season centrally or on the flanks and gained meaningful minutes along the way. Velazco led the team in assists (4) and scored a pair of goals in 23 games (all starts), and Sundly added a goal in 25 matches (18 starts). They both wore the captain’s armband for a handful of matches, as well. Lennon Celestino also started 11 games last year in the midfield. A newcomer is Andrew Brody, formerly of the PDL’s Orlando City U23, the University of Louisville and Real Salt Lake AZ Academy.
Forward: The Monarchs will need to fill a void as the top three goal scorers from last season are not rostered in 2016, but they have a mix of returning options and newcomers. Maikon Orellana had two goals and three assists in 21 games last season for the Monarchs and Eti Tavares scored three times and played in all 28 games – 10 in a starting role. Combine their familiarity with a couple key signings and SLC could have a dangerous attack. The biggest addition is Colin Rolfe, who scored six goals in 25 regular-season games as he earned a championship last year with the Rochester Rhinos.
Strengths: The strongest nucleus from last season is in the defense. Early last year the Monarchs dropped a number of points in the first half of the campaign as it took nearly four months to secure their first win. Now, with a season’s worth of experience and familiarity among the group, the back line could be the team’s most secure element heading into 2016.
Weaknesses: With Emery Welshman signing with the first team in January following his impressive burst down the stretch with the Monarchs, the USL side might need some time to mesh up front. If Rolfe makes a smooth transition and takes on a leadership role here, combined with some of last year’s second tier of scorers stepping up, the Monarchs could be competitive offensively from the start. Goals were difficult to come by in 2015.
Key number: 6 – The Monarchs enter the 2016 season with a six-game unbeaten streak to cap off 2015 (5-0-1, with five consecutive wins). That stretch included a draw against Sacramento Republic FC, followed by wins against Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC, Seattle Sounders FC, OKC Energy FC and back-to-back victories against Arizona United SC.
Noteworthy matchups: One of the most unique matchups of the season takes place on June 11 when the Monarchs are the “host” team against Sacramento Republic FC at Aces Ballpark – the future home of 2017 expansion side Reno 1868 FC.
Coach’s view: “What we wanted to really see was the team structure, and we saw that. We were very hard to break down, and last year we didn’t quite have that.” – Freddy Juarez, following offseason training in Costa Rica
Current roster (updated: March 15, 2016):
Goalkeepers: Eric Osswald
Defenders: Tyler Arnone, John Caparelli, Darion Copeland, Riley McGovern, Emilio Orozco
Midfielders: Andrew Brody, Lennon Celestino, Edgar Duran, Alec Sundly, Ricardo Velazco
Forwards: Maikon Orellana, Colin Rolfe, Eti Tavares