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Real Monarchs: How important are results when building a #Path2Pro?

Real Monarchs: How important are results when building a #Path2Pro?

Real Monarchs lost 3-2 to Minnesota United FC 2 on Friday night, dropping the club to 0-2-1 on their inaugural campaign in MLS NEXT Pro. But do results in the nascent developmental league matter?

HERRIMAN — On a night when the Utah Jazz were blowing a 17-point fourth-quarter lead to the Phoenix Suns, Utah’s lower-division professional soccer team was also finding another way to eke out a rough start to their season.

In the words of Olivia Rodrigo, the state of Utah’s featured headliner this weekend: “It’s brutal out here.”

In this case, there was no playoff chase or seeds to be decided; Real Monarchs are only three games into their inaugural MLS NEXT Pro campaign. Those things will come, but they’re not immediately important.

So what is the purpose of the Monarchs, the Real Salt Lake reserve team that is — by the club’s own admission — a bridge between the storied RSL Academy and the first team?

With a mostly full-strength starting lineup outside of goalkeeper Gavin Beavers, who was replaced by 16-year-old Blake Kelly in the back, the Monarchs took to the pitch Friday night before falling 3-2 to Minnesota United FC 2.

It was Minnesota’s first points of the season.

United put the clamps down early. CC Uche rose up (like a salmon, yada yada yada, eat your heart out Brian Dunseth) to convert a corner kick for a 1-0 lead in the 24th minute, and Aziel Jackson doubled the advantage following a mistake in the back that led to a wide-open goal just 10 minutes later.

The Monarchs were out-shot 5-3 before the break, with Kelly facing the only four shots on goal in a mostly lopsided first half. Things got better in the second half, but the first was … well, brutal.

“We weren’t clean with the ball, just trying to play out of the back,” Real Monarchs coach Jamison Olave said. “I don’t know if it was nervous or insecurity … but besides that, they had to fight in the second half. They got way better. We found better positions that we didn’t have in the first half, and it made things really difficult before then.

“Mistakes happen; they’ll make mistakes. But it’s about how we come back from mistakes. They reacted to that, and it showed in the second half.”

How important are the results when, like many teams in MLS NEXT Pro, the Monarchs are about more than a season — or even a trophy. The club famously starts the youngest in the league, a combination of teenaged homegrown signings, RSL Academy players, and MLS SuperDraft picks like captain Pedro Fonseca.

Does that make results like Friday any less Sour?

Hardly, says Olave.

“The results matter. We have to develop the kids’ quality, technically, tactically, and mentally we have to help them be competitive and to get to the first team,” Olave said. “We don’t just want to come in here and say to play better, to play off the back, to do fancy things — but lose the game.

“That’s not the message. The message right now is that the results aren’t going our way, but we need to keep building on that. At one point, playing that way, the results are going to come our way.”

His players — even the teenagers — are receiving that message, loud and clear. Good 4 U, but here’s where to be better.

Pedro Fonseca, the 24-year-old MLS SuperDraft pick out of Louisville, has three goals in the first three matches of his pro career. (Photo via Real Monarchs)

The average age of Friday’s starting 11 was just 18 years old — and the 24-year-old Fonseca brought that average up quite a bit — with players like Jude Wellings and Christian Nydegger who will leave for the Generation adidas Cup this weekend to play with their age-specific academy sides.

“We’ve got a great system here. These players are ready for it,” said Nydegger, 18. “We’ve got a lot of boys flying out for the GA Cup in the morning, and they’re gonna go ball out down there. But they have the opportunity, and they are taking advantage of it.

“Luis (Rivera) is a 14-year-old center back; you don’t see that often. But they’re doing really well, and they’re ready for it. There are a lot of good kid our academy, and that’s what we’re about here: developing. We’re looking for those three points, but it’s also about pushing each other and getting to the first team. That’s the important thing.”

Eventually through practice, play and just time — something that can’t be rushed, pure minutes — the team will come together. And that means both positive results for the Monarchs AND development for the RSL first team.

For a group of players who have barely received their drivers’ license, that development may come slowly. But it will come.

Sometimes those good moments come from half-to-half. When they do, those good moments have to be accentuated. The players, most of whom are teenagers, can’t be left Wondering.

Bobby Pierre scored the first goal from the run of play for Real Monarchs, smashing a headed ball off a long setup inside the left post to pull within 2-1 in the 47th minute. Minnesota restored the two-goal deficit through Diogo Pacheco’s scorcher in the 76th minute.

Fonseca scored his third goal of the season for the Monarchs to cap regulation, finishing off a pinpoint cross from newly signed Nydegger with a flying header en route to the 3-2 loss.

“It’s bittersweet,” Nydegger said of the first assist of his formal pro career. “We would’ve rather come away with a point or three points. But it’s a good start. It was a hard-fought game. We’ve got some good players, the boys battled, and an unlucky mistake at the beginning cost us.

“Overall, we’re improving, getting better — and we’re putting goals away. That’s the most important thing for me.”

Which again, begs the question: how do you develop players like like Nydegger, Fonseca or Pierre — who is fresh off a call-up with the Real Salt Lake first team — while also keeping the focus on winning and earning results in a development-based league?

“We have to show them the right moments, the mistakes they make and also the goals we scored,” Olave said. “The goals that we conceded were personal mistakes; we lose the ball here, the third goal was switching the point of attack. We just didn’t know where we have to be.

“We have to see that … They played better in the second half than they did in the first half. That’s how we’re going to try to keep those guys. They’re still young; they have to keep learning and keep believing.”

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