Familiar foe provides perfect chance to rebound for United

If there was ever a time that United needed to reset and get back on track, it’s this weekend. And there’s probably no better opponent to do that with than Real Monarchs.

Let’s be honest, since winning the USL title in 2019, the Monarchs have languished near the bottom of the Western Conference. They finished at the bottom of their group in 2020, earning only three wins in sixteen matches. So far in 20201, they’ve only earned two points from four matches.

That’s not a good sign for them going forward.

One of the downsides of being an MLS 2 side is that they don’t always have control over their rosters. With other clubs, we’ve seen the parent club basically impose their will on the USL affiliate. To be fair, we don’t know the extent of that control within the RSL organization, but after moving on from their key contributors it’s hard to think otherwise.

Let’s take a look at some of those key losses:

  • Kalen Ryden – Left Monarchs to join United
  • Maikel Chang – Promoted to RSL
  • Jake Blake – Left for San Diego Loyal
  • Kyle Coffee – option not exercised

Any time a club loses players of that caliber, it’s going to be hard to replace their productivity and creativity on the pitch. Through four matches this season, they don’t seem to have done so. In their absence, players like Milan Iloski and Bode Davis are who Head Coach Jamison Olave is most likely to turn to for an offensive spark.

Jamison Olave Photo courtesy Real Monarchs

With the roster that Olave has to work with, the Monarchs could be in for a very long season.

Player to Watch

Jamison Olave – Okay, technically he’s not a player, so this may be a bit of a cop out. This year more than last, his coaching ability is going to be at the forefront of what happens with the Monarchs.

For United the past week has been a mixed bag of feelings. First there was the frustration of the Loudoun United match. Between the terrible officiating and the two red cards, it would be easy for any club to lose focus. Then came the allegations that United supporters were slinging racial slurs. The amount of negative energy that came out of Saturday night was more than enough to throw anyone off their game.

We all expected the club to appeal Austin Yearwood’s red card. Less than 24 hours later they did so and the news came back that it had been rescinded. While it didn’t even begin to make up for the mistakes made by Chris Ruska, it was welcome news for the supporters.

With Yearwood now eligible for selection on Friday, barring any injuries, United will only be missing Head Coach Troy Lesesne. Lesesne’s absence from the touchline leaves the club in the capable hands of First Assistant Zach Prince. Fortunately, Prince is no stranger to being in charge after taking the reigns a couple times in 2020.

Projected XI vs Real Monarchs

Lesesne and Prince will no doubt have the club physically ready, the question is if they will be mentally ready.

A slow start on Saturday, compounded by the issues mentioned earlier, limited United’s chances at earning even a single point. Getting off on the right foot on Friday could make the difference in the match result. That starts with the midfield.

I’m going to sound like a broken record saying that, but that’s where United’s push and creativity comes from. Josh Suggs’ performance against Loudoun was a perfect example of that. He was able to push past the defenders and play the ball into dangerous areas time after time. Loudoun had no answer for it except to pack the box. With eleven on the pitch it opens up more looks that United can present and more options for movement on and off the ball.

Player to Watch

Amando Moreno – Maybe there’s something in the air or in the water around Zions Bank Stadium, but whatever it is, it seems to give Moreno superpowers. In four appearances against the Monarchs in 2020, Moreno tallied four goals. With any luck, that streak will continue and United will get back on track.

Friday night’s match is scheduled to kick off at 8 p.m. (MDT) from Zions Bank Stadium. The match can be streamed domestically on ESPN+ and internationally on YouTube. Locally the match can also be heard on ESPN Radio 101.7 The TEAM, via The TEAM app, and website.