Man on the Pitch: Real Monarchs Preview

By J.J. Buck

New Mexico United (4-2-1) at Real Monarchs (1-3-1), kick-off Wed. 8 p.m. MT, ESPN-plus

New Mexico’s 1-0 win last Saturday in Colorado Springs won’t go down as the most exciting game of the season, but it was a first. It was the first time in the clubs history they won a game one-nil.

“Good for confidence,” goal keeper Cody Mizell said of the clean sheet on a Zoom conference call Monday.

He was one of the first to mention the accomplishment to the team post game. It also was their first shutout of the season and continues to show what was one of the main goals for manager Troy Lesesne this off-season, improving the teams overall defense.

“If we call on Cody two or three times verses five, six, seven, eight times, he’s going to make the two or three saves we need him to make,” Lesesne said of his keeper.

Mizell became a fan favorite for his heroics in net last year. He made 87 saves which was tied for the ninth most in the USL Championship. This season he’s made 14 saves through sevens games with 10 goals against (Phoenix scored five of the 10 in one game). Less saves doesn’t mean less pressure. It does mean United is doing their job in front of him.

“Sometimes last year we’d be up two-nil in a game and we’d concede late and finish two-one. Still get three points, but leave with a bitter taste in your mouth, ” Mizell said.

Unfortunately, too many times those games went from three points to one, ending in a draw or worse a loss. United have been able to keep teams at a distance a limit dangerous chances. Against the Switchbacks Mizell made two crucial saves and handled a late first half free kick without issue. United held the hosts to 11 shot attempts with only three on target.

“One-nil results on the road like that really boost your confidence to know that you can see out a game without having to get a second goal and that’s something that we needed to improve on,” said Lesesne who went on to credit the focus Mizell has brought to the field this year.

Did He Touch It?

Chris Wehan scored his fifth goal of the season on Saturday, however, the angles provided on the broadcast left you wondering if he got a touch on it.

As the half was coming to a close, Amando Moreno received a pass from Devon Sandoval which sent him down the left wing. As he approached the end line Moreno fired a low cross into the box which keeper, Abraham Rodriguez, appeared to have all wrapped up. Out of no where Wehan flashes in front and the ball finds it’s way through the keepers legs almost in slow motion as it spun across the goal line.

“Touch came off my left toe,” said Wehan with a smile when asked about it.

The goal scorer looked to be relieved instead of the common post goal excitement.

“Hadn’t been our cleanest half. Hadn’t been our cleanest game up to that moment. So I think it was a bit of a sigh-of-relief to get the first goal,” Wehan said of his emotions.

Who are the Real Monarchs? 

The first question most people ask when they see the Monarchs with only four points, is ‘what happened”? The 2019 USL Champions have not come close to the form they had knocking off the top-seeded Phoenix Rising in the quarterfinals and ultimately defeating Louisville City 3-1 in the final.

Head coach Jamison Olave was asked following their 1-0 loss to El Paso last weekend what his team needed to improve on, “Right now our mentality. We need to get the players ready to go mentally and physically because we don’t have time to think about much. We’re going to move on, watch video and talk about a lot between tomorrow and Monday. We just need to prepare for Wednesday now.”

In his statement to the teams website Olave also opined about a rough second half in which the Locomotive scored the deciding goal in the 50′ as his team was shutout for the third time this season.

SLC Last Four Games

  • 1-0 loss vs. San Diego
  • 3-3 draw vs. COS
  • 2-1 loss at COS
  • 1-0 loss vs. ELP

In the four games since the restart the Monarchs have only scored four goals. Their leading goal scorer is center back (#42) Taylor Peay. The 6-foot-3 defender has been the teams biggest threat in the final third on set piece opportunities.

Above is the lineup and formation from their match against El Paso. Olave has used a 3-4-3 in the teams last two games. The Monachs have been patient in their build up looking to control possession and limit breaks against. SLC had a 59-to-40 percent possession advantage over ELP. It’s very similar to United’s philosophy, however, United has been more willing to attack as their forwards have made a significant impact this season.

Kyle Coffee (#57) has started all five games atop the formation for SLC. In 380 minuets of action the Utah native has two shots on goal and one goal scored. Will the forward have the help of (#32) Luke Mulholland and (#19) Luis Arriaga? The Real Salt Lake players started last Saturday. It’s a perk and challenge of being an affiliated club. You have players in from the MLS roster, but you also can’t count on them every week. Arriaga is a 19-year-old academy product who scored 55 goals coming up through the ranks. In 19 appearances last season for the Monarchs he recorded four assists.

There are three players in the midfield that Olave can count on; (#53) Noah Podwer, (#45) Andrew Brody and (#48) Jack Blake.

Powder already has two USL titles to his name at just 21-years-old, (member of 2016 NYRBII). Playing as a left wing back, Powder is developing more of an attacking prescience to his game (six shots/three on goal), but is very comfortable tracking back as he started 29 matches as a defender for SLC last season. Brody returns after being on loan playing in the Austrian third division for FC Pinzgau Saalfelden. He has a team high 18 crosses playing balls in from the right side.

Blake scored a penalty in Real’s 2-1 over Colorado Springs for his only goal of the season. The 25-year-old from England has a dangerous right foot when it comes to free kick opportunities. He scored eight goals last year.

The back three is anchored by the aforementioned, Taylor Peay. At 28-years-old the Salt Lake City native is the old man on the roster. He has featured with SLC before including a stint with the big club. Last season Peay played with Louisville FC and has made a seamless transition into a leader at the back. He leads the team with 18 clearances. (Peay was listed on the injury report on the teams pregame notes).

James Moberg (#40) is one of four University of Washington alums on the roster. He’s also the longest tenured member of club in his fifth season. He shows quality on the ball helping play out of the back. (#59) Nicolas Giminez is a young defender to keep an eye on. The 22-year-old is in his first year with the club after spending last season with San Martín de Tucumán in his home country of Argentina.

Rookie Jimmy Slaton (#55) has started four of the five games in goal. The 21-year-old played collegiality in his home state of Connecticut at the University of Hartford. He has 12 saves and six goals against. The other start went to 19 year-old David Ochoa who is a homegrown standout and on RSL’s roster.

Others to Watch For

  • (#64) Ryan Sierakowski – 22 y/o F, was 23rd pick of 2019 MLS Super Draft (Portland).
  • (#60) Arturo Rodriguez – 21 y/o MF, on loan from North Texas FC, 2019 League One MVP.

More of the Same

This is game one of two this week as they’ll run it back Saturday night at Zions Bank Stadium. United will look to set the tone in possession, but first it is about disrupting their opponents. The press has played dividends this season and will be key for them to not the Monarchs find a rhythm in the game. United showed they can handle a grind as they did against the Switchbacks. Expect a similar style of play in the first half as each team tries to avoid any major mistakes.

The road warriors haven’t had a hiccup yet against an opponent lower than them in the standings since the restart. United are well aware of the challenges an MLS II side can present and one that has the ability to get on a roll like the Monarchs. The mix of ‘veterans’ and academy graduates can lead to a crazy night at any moment.

United defender Josh Suggs left early in the second half against COS. Lesesne knew he was going to have a hungry squad with opportunities opening up as they enter game two of three over an eight day stretch. United hope their hand isn’t forced due to injury, but they’ve shown the ability to adapt since the restart.

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