Real Monarchs: Underdogs and Comebacks

"Nobody had us in this position except for us, nobody," Kalen Ryden shouted on the field over the noise of celebration music playing at Lynn Stadium. "Nobody had us here and this group, three games in a row, we’ve gone down a goal and we came back and that just shows everything, everything about this team. I’m so proud of these guys. That’s all I can say right now."

On Sunday, Real Monarchs defied the odds and became USL Championship Title-Winners, lifting the trophy high over Lynn Stadium in Louisville. After the 3-1 victory over back-to-back defending Title-Winners Louisville City FC, Real Monarchs laid to rest any doubts that it is a team that can call itself the best in the league.

Leading into Sunday's Final, Real Monarchs were branded the underdogs as FiveThirtyEight - a statistical analysis website - giving the Monarchs just a 36% chance of coming out of Lynn Stadium the winner. Being the underdogs was something the Monarchs embraced and took in stride throughout its playoff push.

“We don’t see ourselves as underdogs but we do enjoy that role,” defender Konrad Plewa said in an interview with USL’s Kelsi Steele ahead of Sunday’s action. “We do enjoy getting into games with odds stacked against us and everybody counting us out. That’s when we play our best.”

After a rocky start to the regular season - trading home wins for away losses - the Monarchs fought from a low 14th in the West for being one of the last remaining contenders for 4th in the West, a spot the Monarchs would claim. Starting in June, the Monarchs broke into a strong stride with a five-game win-streak but even as the team’s form started to change, the Utah side was still written in as the underdogs going into Reno and Phoenix, both of which the Monarchs claimed the ‘upset’ victories.

Despite the strong end to the 2019 regular season, the Monarchs were still slated as underdogs moving into its playoff run. However, Real Monarchs emphatically overcame its past postseason woes with a 6-2 drubbing of Orange County SC before moving into a comeback 2-1 victory against Phoenix Rising FC after only being given a 26% chance from FiveThirtyEight. It was anyone’s game against El Paso Locomotive FC, however, two of three pundits gave El Paso Locomotive the win, giving the Monarchs another upset victory behind a 120th minute goal from defender Erik Holt.

Only one expert asked by USL gave Real Monarchs the win for Sunday’s Championship Final, but only by a narrow 1-0 margin.

“We’re not worried about anything or what people are saying,” defender Noah Powder said before the Final. “We are just playing a game. Playing the way we know how to play.”

After going down early in the 6th minute, the Monarchs comeback story continued. Holt found the equalizer in the 25thminute before Plewa provided the Monarchs with an important 2-1 lead before the halftime whistle. Heroics from the Monarchs backline and goalkeeper David Ochoa protected the lead before Powder topped off the 3-1 victory in the 66th minute to once again defy the odds, becoming the first team to lift the USL Championship trophy away from home.

“Honestly, I can’t describe it,” captain Jack Blake said after the win. “To come back and never give up, that’s the message. I think the whole group is just an inspiration to anyone watching. The players are an absolute pleasure to work with day-in and day-out, I’m so proud of them and we’re USL Champs!”