When now Seattle Sounders President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey left Real Salt Lake they were in the process of setting up the Real Monarchs, their USL side. Since that time the Monarchs have signed a whopping 15 players from their Academy or last year's USL side. RSL is now planning for a massive training facility in suburban Salt Lake City that would combine an Academy residency program as well as training for the lower division team.
With Seattle Sounders Lagerwey seems to be planning to do similar. There are out-of-catchment players living with current and former Academy players here in the Seattle area. S2 might move to Tacoma, though the training facility is likely to stay at Starfire. In some ways, post-Lagerwey RSL is more ambitious in how it treats internal development than the Sounders are with Lagerwey in charge.
Today's match will be on YouTube, and both sides will field a mix of Academy players, direct signings and MLS bubble talent.
Rather than a standard Three Questions format I asked Matt Montgomery (RSL Soapbox) about big picture stuff that the Monarchs are doing.
SaH: What's the new complex going to mean for the Academy and the Monarchs?
RSLSB: It's hard to overstate how important the RSL Training Academy will be to both parts of the organization; first, having an academy in Utah enables the team to regularly pull in academy players for Monarchs training sessions or matches, benefiting both teams. Second, having a permanent training facility for Real Monarchs means they won't be pulled to-and-fro in search of training facilities, as they've currently trained across the Salt Lake Valley. On a final note, the ability of RSL and Monarchs coaches to regularly evaluate the progress of academy players first-hand, rather than having to do so intermittently, means they can get a picture of their development and ability to transition to Real Monarchs or, indeed, the first team.
SaH: The Monarchs are heavily invested in playing signings from the Academy, how's that turned out on the field?
RSLSB: It's been a bit of a mixed bag. Some have been regular players â Ricardo Velazco and Eti Tavares are both frequent appearance-makers and they've provided a boost of quality. Others, like Edgar Duran, have been sent on loan to PDL sides to give them additional playing time. In more recent appearances, Andrew Brody, signed in 2016, has shown extremely well and has made a difference every time he plays.
It's been a bit more meaningful for RSL players signed from the academy. Justen Glad, for example, spent much of 2015 playing minutes for Monarchs, and Fito Ovalle continued his professional development there last year.
SaH: Who is the best player that came through the Monarchs to RSL and what did he learn in the USL?
RSLSB: That's a hard question. The only player to have "graduated" in that sense is Emery Welshman, and he's yet to play a game for RSL, having suffered early-season injuries.
On the other hand, a player like Justen Glad played quite a bit with Monarchs last year, and it's enabled him to be a strong, reliable defender for RSL when called on in 2016.