Dave Cheever is the Real Monarchs editor over on SB Nation’s Real Salt Lake blog, RSL Soapbox. You can check out all the great work he does right here. Today, Dave opens up to us about what has been going on with the Monarchs so far this season and what Republic can expect this Saturday.
Indomitable City Soccer: Real Monarchs seem to be having an excellent start to the 2017 season. They're second in both the league standings and our power rankings and have only one loss so far. What do you think have been the keys to the team's success so far? Can they keep this up for the whole season?
Dave: At the end of last season RSL General Manager Craig Waibel was very open in acknowledging that the organization's initial plans for Real Monarchs were not accurate and that they had gone about building the team all wrong. Originally the plan was for a natural age group progression from the Academy where groups moved wholesale from U16 to U18 and with the Monarchs to U20 etc. While that worked quite well in the developmental academies it was a failure in the USL where teams were constructed quite differently. Rather than develop an entire team of developmental players at the same time it would be necessary to have a mixture with a few developmental players who are new to the professional ranks, a few older experienced veterans from USL, and a few second-chance younger players who through circumstances never found active playing time at the initial clubs. To develop young players you need to move beyond just giving them playing time and seeing what happens, you need to have consistency in style and approach matched with the capability off winning to develop a winning attitude. This year’s team is the result of that new approach and so far it has worked very well. Barring injury I feel that it can only improve with time and more experience as a team.
ICS: At the start of the season, Mike Petke was the coach of the Monarchs. I think he coached only one game before being promoted up to RSL? How did that personnel move change things for the Monarchs, if at all?
Dave: 8-10 Monarchs players, mainly those with several years of USL experience and that now make up the spine of the team, spent the entire MLS pre-season with RSL while the others were in various mini-camps. By the time they came together as a team for the USL pre-season they had a very drilled and prepared core who could set the example and standard for the remainder of the team. Coach Petke focused on cohesion and shape during the Monarchs pre-season and that focus carries on under Coach Briggs. If anything, it instilled the worth of what Coach Petke was attempting to teach them during camp and early in the season to see him move up to the parent club and know he is already very familiar with them. He continues to monitor the progress of Monarchs players and is among the first to congratulate any good performances in games.
ICS: Are there any current Monarchs players that you see following in the footsteps of Ricardo Velazco and making the move up to RSL?
Dave: Among the fans, Sebastian Velasquez, who had a couple of years at RSL before moving on to NYCFC and the NASL, is among the fan's choice for a move up to the parent club. His well documented struggles with personal and external demons are hopefully behind him, but he will need to show sustained performance over a period of time before being moved up. Andrew Brody and Riggs Lennon are the only former RSL Academy players currently on the team and could also be future prospects.
ICS: Finally, what is your prediction for this match?
Dave: Strangely enough I think that a decent amount of the outcome of Saturday's match is in the hands of the Republic players. The Monarchs are playing on their home field and and at altitude. In their victories they have demonstrated that they can break teams down and any attempt to play conservatively for a quick counter or draw by the Republic is likely to result in a Monarchs victory. The Republic need to come out and attempt to aggressively enforce their style and shape on the match and match the Monarchs shot for shot and goal for goal. I expected to see a number of goals and a 3-2 victory for the Monarchs over a motivated Republic squad to set up a great rematch in Sacramento next September.