Real Monarchs Head Coach Mark Briggs knows he has an embarrassment of riches at his disposal; it’s helped his club to the top of the Western Conference with a 12-1-0 record. In Monday night’s record-setting 2-1 win against Reno 1868 FC, Real Salt Lake first team members Omar Holness, David Horst, Ricardo Velazco, Jose Hernandez and Lalo Fernandez earned valuable minutes with the Claret-and-Cobalt USL side.
For the RSL men, the game gave them opportunities as they work back to full fitness. They join Tony Beltran, Aaron Maund, Sunny, Reagan Dunk and Jordan Allen as first teamers to make loan stints in USL.
“I feel the group that the front office put together, there’s so much potential in that locker room,” the Monarchs boss explained post match. “We’re doing well at the moment and we broke this record, but I don’t think we are anywhere near the potential that group has, which is exciting.”
Holness was the only one of the bunch to go the full 90 minutes. While he didn’t add to his goalscoring account like he did in his first appearance with the club, the Jamaican was a workhorse for Briggs’ side. Holness stifled the Reno attack and spurred the Monarchs offense going forward as the pivot between the lines.
Horst and Fernandez were essential in securing the three points. The Monarchs needed to stamp out problems defensively and the duo were crucial to putting out fires. Horst logged 61 minutes alongside Michael Gallagher, adding to his first half outing against Portland Timbers 2 on June 10.
The club needed all five of Fernandez’s saves. The RSL Academy graduate stood on his head in the second half with Reno pressing for the equalizer. His best save of the night was followed up by his most acrobatic. In the 69th minute, 1868 FC’s Linda Mfeka rounded the corner bearing in on goal from the right side of the area. The lefty powered a shot to the top corner, but Fernandez parried it wide. Moments later in the 76th minute, Fernandez was heroic again. On a free kick 20 yards from goal, the 4th year RSL man tipped a dipping effort over the top on diving save to his right.
“He kept us in the game the whole time and he came up with some big times saves,” Velazco praised postgame. “That’s what he’s there for, and he came to do it today.”
The dynamic winger Velazco was a spark plug in driving the Monarchs attack forward during his 68 minutes of play. The University of Louisville product nearly opened up his 2017 USL account at the hour mark. Velazco was a one-man counter-attack, taking a turnover in the Real half and creating a shot from distance. Andrew Tarbell needed to make his best save of the night to deny the winger. Although, he was held scoreless on the night, Velazco showed why he’s a promising option on the wing.
“It means the world to me because I was here when the team was struggling,” the former Monarchs winger said. “For us to set a record now and me be a part of it it’s a great feeling. I’m blessed to be part of this team. I know it has only been twice, but anything that I can do to contribute to this team I’ll do it and I’m happy I was able to play in this game.”
With all four RSL men putting in solid shifts, they have the chance to remain sharp if their number gets called by Mike Petke.