Indomitable City Soccer: It looks like our teams will be getting to know each other fairly well this week. How has this season been going for the Monarchs?
Matt Montgomery: It's been a decidedly better 2016 than 2015 ever reached for Real Monarchs — they're evenly split between wins, losses, and draws, with four of each. To say that's better than last year at this point is a huge understatement, mostly because the team really couldn't figure out how to win more than once or twice in a row.
But what we've seen this season is a team that's heavily influenced by Real Salt Lake, with more first-team players making Monarchs appearances regularly. That's lent the team a more composed air, and it's played well in their favor.
ICS: One big early story for the Monarchs was Omar Holness's seizure vs Saint Louis in March. How has that developed in the few months since that game?
MM: That was easily the worst moment I've seen on a pitch, but what seemed like it could be career-ending in the moment turned into a blip on the radar in Holness's development. Initial indications were that he had a significant shoulder injury, but he recovered from that without surgery and has been playing off-and-on for the Monarchs since. He's now played in four matches since then, and with any luck, he'll continue to be healthy.
ICS: Who are some Monarchs players that Republic fans should keep their eyes on?
MM: Ricardo Velazco has been a potent goalscorer for the team; he's averaging a goal every other game, which isn't bad for this level. He's a quick, crafty attacking player who's comfortable in each of the four attacking positions Monarchs set out to use.
Chris Schuler's another to look for, mostly because he's a veteran MLS defender who's working his way back from long-term injury concerns. He's cerebral, effective, and has been a mainstay for Monarchs. He's not likely to play, having gone 90 minutes last weekend, but he's going to be part of the discussion in one way or another.
Finally, watch for other Real Salt Lake players to get a run out ahead of a US Open Cup match in a week — we could see players like John Stertzer, Olmes Garcia, and Devon Sandoval being given an opportunity to stake a claim for a starting position in the tournament