Arizona United SC meets Real Monarchs SLC tonight in Utah, and we wanted to catch up with someone who knows our opponent well. Matt Montgomery is the Managing Editor of RSL Soapbox, SB Nation’s place for all things Real Salt Lake and Real Monarchs. Matt has covered the Monarchs from the beginning, and was kind enough to answer our questions before tonight’s match (6:00pm AZ time).
Firebird Rising: This being the second year of the Monarchs’ existence, how do you see the team’s role in the USL so far, and how has it served the needs of Real Salt Lake?
Matt Montgomery: The team’s role in USL has been an interesting one. While other teams (usually USL-specific) have tended toward putting some veterans and more experienced players into the mix, the Monarchs haven’t done that at all. They’re a young team, and the end result has been some young mistakes — but when it comes down to it, they’re making those mistakes at a level where it’s acceptable. It’s harder to stomach in MLS.
If we’re talking more specifically about players signed from the system, there’s not much to speak of — just Emery Welshman, who has spent the totality of 2016 injured. There are certainly some good options for the future there, but we’ve yet to see them.
On the flip side, we’ve seen it as a place to grow for some young players. Phanuel Kavita and Boyd Okwuonu, both first-team players, have played minutes in MLS and haven’t foundered — that’s largely because they’ve been able to get serious playing time and hone their skills.
FR: Piggybacking on that a bit, we in Arizona are especially pleased to see the rise of Ricardo Velazco (as long as he doesn’t score on United). What are his prospects of getting regular time in MLS and beyond?
MM: Here’s hoping those prospects are strong — Velazco is fun to watch for Monarchs, but when he’s had the chance to impress for RSL, he has. The only real instance of that was this week against Inter Milan, and he kept up quite well in the second half once he came on. Now, it’s worth noting that he certainly wasn’t playing against the best Inter Milan had to offer, but their development programs are almost certainly ahead of ours in Salt Lake. He deserves plaudits for his performance, and he created some big chances for the team.
We’re rooting for him here in Salt Lake, and maybe we’ll see him on the first team before too long.
FR: The Monarchs and Arizona United have had very similar results on the score sheet this year, and only one controversial goal separated them in Utah back in April. What will SLC do to get on the front foot in a well-matched game like this?
MM: There will be a group of players hot off the match against Inter Milan, and they’ll probably still be a bit amped up from that. If they can keep themselves in control, they’ll look to score early and establish an attacking threat. We’ll see how that shakes out, of course, because a single goal conceded can ruin those plans.