It was a beautiful day for the beautiful game and Real Monarchs SLC took full advantage as it took on Orange County SC in the 2019 USL Championship playoffs. With 2,749 in attendance at Zions Bank Stadium in Herriman last Saturday, Interim Head Coach Jamison Olave led the club to its first-ever playoff win, a 6-2 drubbing of OC, a match that marked the most goals during a single game in franchise history.
“I am so proud of this team,” Olave said after the emphatic win. “I said to them that this is the first time ever that we’ve won in the first round of the playoffs, and that was thanks to them. They left it all on the field. The way they played and the way they embraced the game, that’s why we got the result tonight.”
Embraced the game they did as the Monarchs got off to an early start in the Western Conference Quarterfinal. Maikel Chang opened the scoring by redirecting the pass from Tate Schmitt with one touch. Chang would then go on and expertly cut back on two Orange County defenders to set Douglas Martínez up for the second goal within 30 minutes of the opening whistle.
Real Monarchs then dominated the second half with a man advantage in an offensive onslaught that saw four goals through Schmitt, Erik Holt, and the brace from Jack Blake. While OC was able to pull back two, it wasn’t enough to worry the Monarchs in the 6-2 result. The definitive victory was night-and-day from the 1-0 loss in the Monarchs 2018 playoff appearance, but that loss may have shown the Monarchs the missing link to playoff victory.
“I could say what we learned from last year was to be focused for 90 minutes,” Olave said. “I said to the players before the game, ‘Focus makes the difference.’ If we stay concentrated for 90 minutes, 120 minutes, whatever it takes, it will make the difference.”
It took more than just the focus in the 90 minutes against OC to make it to the Western Conference Semifinal for the first time. It was a rough road to this stage and focus was paramount as the Monarchs faced off against some of the most challenging teams in the Western Conference.
“The way that we ended the season was the difference,” Olave reflected. “If you look back, we played big teams, and the team realized that we could play with anyone in this league. Playing at home, that was an extra motivation. With the motivation that we finished the regular season, that helped us a lot today.”
Through the last month of the regular season, the Monarchs faced off against Reno 1868 FC, Austin Bold FC, Sacramento Republic FC, Phoenix Rising FC, and its quarterfinal opponent, Orange County SC. In that final stretch of games, the Monarchs were able to earn a result against each of them, including statement wins over Reno and the 2019 regular season winners, Phoenix Rising FC. That road to the playoffs secured the Monarchs the right to host in its third consecutive playoff appearance and helped play a role in the team’s confidence.
“We are in good form, right now, and we know that we can continue that with games like these and training,” Tate Schmitt said after the 6-2 win. “Each game is a battle and a new opportunity. We just need to take it one game at a time and prepare for our opponents. We need to learn about them: what they’re good at and what they’re not good at. Then, we just need to take it one game at a time.”
The next match for the Monarchs will be in the Western Conference Semifinal where Real Monarchs will face Phoenix Rising FC on Friday, November 1 at Casino Arizona Field. The match is set to kick off from Scottsdale, Arizona at 8:30 p.m. MT and will be available to watch live on ESPN+.