3 thoughts on Real Monarchs’ 1-1 draw with Timbers 2

April 9th, 2015 | by Sean Walker

Real Monarchs SLC drew its first-ever home match at Rio Tinto Stadium, 1-1 on a rain-soaked Wednesday night against Portland Timbers 2. Justen Glad, the RSL defender who has been on loan with the Monarchs for two days, scored the first home goal in franchise history with a glancing header via Lucas Baldin’s free kick from near the left corner in the 27th minute.

But the Monarchs were forced off from a slow start, allowing a goal in just the seventh minute to speedy Timbers 2 striker Fatawu Safiu. The attack-minded wide player took a pass from Blair Gavin in the midfield, then raced past Jordan Murrell to slot home the ball underneath goalkeeper Lalo Fernandez just over six minutes into the game.

The Monarchs won’t be overly impressed with a home draw, but the club is putting things together and improving — the side lost 3-1 to the Timbers less than two weeks ago. Head coach Freddy Juarez put it bluntly when he mentioned the Monarchs were playing in their sixth overall game in franchise history — which includes preseason victories over Weber State, Utah Valley and Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC.

A lower-division league that draws primarily on development and preparing players for the next level like the USL is bound to have teams, players and games like the first three games for the Monarchs, who are still without a win in 2015. But winning takes time — even if Real Salt Lake’s USL affiliate and its fans want to do it now.

Here are a three other thoughts from Wednesday’s draw with Portland, as well as highlights of the inaugural Monarchs match at Rio Tinto Stadium.

1. Lucas Baldin’s play early in the season has been exceptional.

Baldin’s play at central midfield was one of the highlights of the game, putting every attempt into the attacking third through him and using the captain’s armband to take the majority of the set piece opportunities in the match. His free kick from just off the left corner found a charging Glad, who redirected the boot off a glancing header for the Monarchs’ lone goal and equalizer on the evening.

He wasn’t overly heralded coming out of South Florida, but Baldin’s play has been good enough through the first three games of the season to merit his role as team captain, and he could find himself seeing time with the first team if his current play keeps up. RSL’s depth at his position, with Javier Morales, Luis Gil, Kyle Beckerman, John Stertzer, Pecka, and others has sent Baldin to the Monarchs under contract — but he’s only going to get better, and he’s doing it in RSL’s system.

Unnoticed in the pass that led to Glad’s goal, though, is Baldin’s work rate, Juarez said after the match.

“Excellent ball from Baldin, and he’s been working on that,” Juarez said. “He shows up to practice early and works on that, and Justen Glad is always a danger. He has good jumping ability, and then he got loose and the ball was played right to him.”

2.  The Monarchs really are a USL version of Real Salt Lake.

The third-division side came out in a 4-3-3, much like the first-team RSL did Sunday in a 1-0 win at San Jose, and has done so all year. After a dicey opening 10 minutes, the Monarchs found the space, pressure and possession to out-wit a Portland team that hasn’t lost in three USL games and will likely challenge for a playoff spot at the end of the season.

But the affiliate looked more like its parent team at the start of the second half, when Juarez made his first substitution. Newly signed RSL man (and Monarchs loanee) Pecka entered the game for third striker Eti Tavares, and the defensive midfielder initiated a change in midfield that brought back the 4-4-2 diamond with Baldin at the point, and Ricardo Velazco and Sebastian Saucedo playing as the two strikers. Pecka’s emergence brought a familiar look to RSL’s shape, and the team played well in it — the Monarchs outshot Portland 8-2 in the second half and 11-5 on the night.

“There were several adjustments we made at halftime to lead to that,” Juarez said. “We had that player like Pecka who has that quality where we could get the fifth, sixth, seventh pass that helped give more space and allowed more time for players. He made a difference.”

3. These players are better than even they think at times.

That’s a compliment, though. The Monarchs are a squad of primarily first-year professional soccer players — and they are learning how to be pros. At a team dinner Tuesday night, many of the players hesitated with looks of “Who? Me?” when several young fans approached them for autographs before eating at Toscano’s Italian restaurant in Draper.

The soccer isn’t always the hard part for these players — it’s believing in being professionals and that they can play at the level of the rest of the USL.

But that will come, too — in time.

After the skittish opening 10 minutes, the Monarchs began to realize they can do more than just “hang in there” against a talented Timbers 2 side.

“By the middle of the first half, we realized we had a lot of time on the ball,” Baldin said. “We were getting a lot of momentum. We knew we had the ability to play forward more. Freddy talked to us and told us to go after them, put them on their heels. We didn’t get the goal, but I think the effort was there.”

The Monarchs will look for their first win of the season against the Colorado Springs Switchbacks on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. at Rio Tinto Stadium. What do they need to pick up the victory at home? Leave you thoughts and suggestions in the comments below.

Sean Walker

Sean Walker

Salt City FC editor-in-chief Sean Walker has been covering soccer at all levels since 2007. He began his career in Las Vegas, and has since written for publications from the Intermountain West to Central New York, where he attended graduate school in 2012. Currently, Sean covers Real Salt Lake and Major League Soccer for KSL.com. A struggling Evertonian by birth, Sean follows European soccer through the blue lens of the Toffees, and has strong feelings toward the UEFA Europa League.

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