3 quick thoughts after Real Monarchs’ inaugural USL match

March 22nd, 2015 | by Shawn Blymiller
Real Monarchs at L.A. Galaxy II March 22 (Galaxy II YouTube page/screen capture)

Real Monarchs SLC and L.A. Galaxy II finish off a 0-0 draw in the two club’s first-ever meeting on March 22, 2015. (Screen capture/L.A. Galaxy II)

Let the record reflect that March 22, 2015 was the first official game for Salt Lake City’s newest professional soccer franchise, Real Monarchs SLC. The USL affiliate of Real Salt Lake took L.A. Galaxy II to a 0-0 draw on the road Sunday night, and in the process offered the fanbase a lot to look forward in the years to come.

Here are three quick thoughts on a standout night for the Monarchs.

1. The Monarchs are trying to “go local.”

Monarchs president Rob Zarkos has repeatedly stressed the importance of displaying local talent on his team, and Real Salt Lake owner Dell Loy Hansen also wants to give local prospects a chance to play pro soccer. From the opening match, the fruits of that ambition were on display.

The Monarchs opened in a similar 4-3-3 to Real Salt Lake, and the core of that lineup consisted of Utah-produced players.  RSL loanee Phanuel Kavita, 22, is a product of the RSL-Arizona Academy and was a standout at Highland High School in Salt Lake City.  He spent the last four years at Clemson University, where he started all four seasons for the Tigers and was team captain for two years. Kavita spent his youth club years with Sparta United in Sandy, and he started Sunday in the center of the park next to center back Aaron Maund. Kavita’s speed and pure athletic ability was on full display in this game.

Just in front of Kavita was recent RSL signee Fito Ovalle at holding midfielder. Ovalle grew up in Layton, where his father is an administrator with well-known Utah club La Roca SC. Ovalle recently signed his first professional contract after a few appearances with the Chilean youth national setup. He shows pure quality in possession, especially in tight spaces.

Another La Roca product, Sebastian “Bofo” Saucedo, started at forward in the Monarchs’ debut. Saucedo is part of the U-18 and U-20 U.S. national team player pool — and RSL head coach Jeff Cassar has already lauded him for his ability to score goals. Saucedo was named to the USSDA Western Conference Starting XI and won U-16 Western Conference Player of the Year in 2014. Saucedo was constantly on the ball throughout the match — an exciting pedestal for Utah Youth Soccer fans watching him play.

2. RSL has a lot of big, athletic, and fast defenders — and the Monarchs will fare them well.

If it wasn’t for the recovery speed of the two on-loan first-team central defenders, the game could have easily seen a few goals for L.A. Galaxy II. The 65th minute through the 80th minute saw some frantic defending from the Monarchs. “Los Dos” was able to get around the corner on both sides of the 18 yard box, but their cutback crosses were cut out by the standout play of the Monarchs.

Both Maund and Kavita will benefit greatly from more minutes at the USL level. When Lennon Celestino entered the game late as a substitute in the 80th minute, the native of Sao Paulo, Brazil had already played professionally for five years. Celestino was subbed on for Ovalle in the holding midfielder position, but coaches have stressed his versatility.

3. This game was not always pretty — and that’s OK.

There were a lot of fouls and missed passes. Some of the turnovers were bad giveaways in vulnerable and horrific parts of the field. But the game is about development at this level, and the most important outcome was the shutout. RSL reserve goalkeeper Lalo Fernandez came up with several big and important saves when he needed it — and the Monarchs needed him a few times. There were a few shots from 25 yards out in the first half that Fernandez parried to the side. Ariel Lassiter, son of MLS legend Roy Lassiter, should have put Galaxy II ahead in the late stages of the game but Fernandez and his center back duo preserved the shutout. Regular L.A. first-team defender A.J. De La Garza had a chance around the 70th minute to head the ball on frame, but pushed the ball wide. De La Garza was a featured star for L.A. II on Sunday — offering a great example of how USL and MLS can interchange players.

The first road game of the season against the first MLS team to get a USL side brought a point and a shutout in a hostile environment. Not bad for a history-making night.

A few other notes:

The inaugural Starting XI for Real Monarchs SLC consisted of GK Lalo Fernandez, defenders Boyd Okwuonu,  Phanuel Kavita, Aaron Maund and Riley McGovern; midfielders John Stertzer, Fito Ovalle, and Lucas Baldin; and forwards Eti Tavares, Bofo Saucedo, and Ricardo Velazco.

Monarchs forward Emery Welshman missed the club’s inaugural match with international duty. The youngster was making his second camp appearance with the Guyana national team since last fall. Welshman played for RSL in the preseason, including scoring a goal in the Desert Diamond Cup against Sporting Kansas City.

Shawn Blymiller

Shawn Blymiller

I was a guest host on a weekly podcast called "The Jockularity Show" in preparation of the World Cup. It was there that Rick Aaron from Channel 4 News coined me a "Soccer Geek". I played 2 seasons in the Premier Developmental League, 1 year with BYU and 1 year with the Ogden Outlaws. I also played soccer in college and was named to the All-conference teams. Soccer is my passion, it is in my makeup and in my DNA. I am staying involved with the beautiful game as much as I possibly can. I have done the play by play and the color commentating for games in the PDL, and the Western Athletic Conference for UVU. Follow my posts about RSL, RSL Women, Real Monarchs, UVU Soccer, BYU Soccer, and just about everything else in the footballing world. #COYG Arsenal!
Shawn Blymiller

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