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USL Cup Playoffs Spotlight: Real Monarchs SLC

By CHRIS HOCKMAN -, 10/18/17, 9:51PM EDT


Monarchs enter first playoff campaign as USL Regular Season Champions

Photo courtesy Real Monarchs SLC

SANDY, Utah – After three seasons, Real Monarchs SLC has qualified for the USL Cup Playoffs for the first time, clinching the top seed in the Western Conference and the USL Regular Season Championship in one of the biggest turnaround stories in the league's history. Rio Tinto Stadium has been a fortress for the Monarchs this season, with just one loss all year at home, where they will play for every round of the playoffs they advance to. New Head Coach Mark Briggs has used his revamped squad well and the Monarchs are sure to go in as the favorite for the 2017 USL Cup as they look to become the third consecutive team to complete the double of the regular season and postseason championships.

2017 USL Cup Playoffs: Quarterfinal matchup:
No. 1 Real Monarchs SLC vs. No. 8 Sacramento Republic FC – Friday, Oct. 20, 10 p.m. ET, Rio Tinto Stadium

2017 USL regular season:
20-5-7 (67 points) | Home: 12-1-3 (39 points) | Road: 8-4-4 (28 points)

Goals For: 57 | Goals Against: 30

1. Chandler Hoffman 16; 2. Sebastian Velasquez 9; 3. Daniel Haber 7; 4. (tie) 3 tied with 3

Assists: 1. Charlie Adams 8; 2. Chandler Hoffman 7; 3. Sebastian Velasquez 6; 4. (tie) 2 tied with 4

Saves: 1. Connor Sparrow 62; 2. Lalo Fernandez 26; 3. Andrew Putna 10; 4. Matt Van Oekel 3

Clinched its postseason … Sept. 2; clinched with a 1-1 draw against San Antonio FC, coupled with OKC Energy FC’s 2-0 loss to the Swope Park Rangers

Clinched the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference … Oct. 8; clinched with a 1-1 draw against Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 coupled with San Antonio FC’s 1-1 draw with the Tampa Bay Rowdies.

Defining moment: In a season full of impressive moments it is difficult to point to just one, but if there was a match where it looked like belief started to flow that the Monarchs could really manage this phenomenal season it was the side's 5-2 victory against Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC at Rio Tinto Stadium on May 20. Having lost to the Switchbacks earlier in the season it was a chance for the Monarchs to get revenge over their Rocky Mountain rival, and they did so in impressive fashion to earn a fifth consecutive victory. That run would eventually reach a league-record nine games which proved key in claiming the first silverware in club history. The victory against the Switchbacks saw the side go behind in the 25th minute, but then both Chandler Hoffman and Sebastian Velasquez scored two goals apiece to put Real firmly in control. The side was reduced to 10 men after Michael Gallagher was shown his second yellow card in the 63rd minute, but that didn't deter the Monarchs' attack as Daniel Haber scored with seven minutes to go to cap the rout, which served as notice to the rest of the USL as to how real the Monarchs' intentions for the season were.

Three keys to a championship run:
1. Hoffman’s Attacking Play:
With 16 goals in the season, tied for second in the race for the USL Golden Boot, the addition of Chandler Hoffman has been a big part of the significant improvement for the Monarchs in the regular season. Hoffman has been a leader both on and off the pitch for the Monarchs, with his 16 goals nearly double that of teammate Sebastian Velazquez for second on the team. Hoffman is also second on the club with seven assists as his link-up play with Velasquez, Haber and recent addition Diego Calvo has provided consistency in the final third. With a 31 percent chance conversion rate this season, the best of the contenders, opponents will have to keep an eye on one of the USL's top attackers.

2. Shooting Accuracy: There are different ways to make a run to the USL Cup. One is going all out and peppering the opponents’ goals with shots, hoping to get one on target every now and again, and the other is how the Monarchs have been playing all season, choosing their shots carefully to increase the probability of scoring goals. The Monarchs have the best shooting accuracy in the league with 57.43 percent of their shots hitting the target, which led to the second-best total of 59 goals in the regular season. The Monarchs clinical finishing has been a hallmark of the team's approach all season, with 64.74 percent of the team's 380 shots coming from within the penalty area.

3. Home sweet home: The Monarchs have home advantage through the 2017 USL Cup Playoffs, and as as long as they remain in the postseason this will be a big advantage. Real lost just once at home, to San Antonio FC on September 3, and took a league-high 12 home wins in the regular season. A wide field and the altitude of Salt Lake City have already provided a big advantage for the Monarchs, which carried them to the Regular Season Championship. Any visitor will need to produce a big performance if it's to dethrone the hosts at the RioT.

“Overall we lost five games, tied six, I think that tells its own story. I couldn’t be prouder of what the players have done this year.”– Real Monarchs SLC Head Coach Mark Briggs after the match against Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 on October 7th.

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