Herriman • As the whistle blew to start the Real Monarchs’ first match at Zions Bank Stadium, cars were still backed up onto Mountain View Corridor, filing into the second overflow lot for the stadium.
Single game tickets ranged from $9 to $40, and 4,065 fans flocked to the brand new stadium to watch a 0-0 draw between the Monarchs and the Las Vegas Lights.
Once the fans got into the stadium, which was built in conjunction with the Zions Bank Real Academy, they were greeted by an intimate viewing experience. The 5,000 seat stadium put them just steps away from the turf. Those sitting in the front row watched from between 5 and 10 yards from the playing surface. And those with the worst seats? They were still only 15 rows up.
“It just feels like everyone’s right there on top of you,” said Monarchs defender Kalen Ryden, after beginning the season playing home matches at Rio Tinto Stadium. “It’s a really good atmosphere, and I’d say it’s one of the nicer and more homey stadiums in the USL.”
La Barra Real, an RSL supporters group, beat drums just off to the the side of the north goal. Next to them stood a section full of RSL Academy players sporting their blue team jackets. They danced and waved balloons to the beat. When Monarchs midfielder Mastanabal Kacher missed wide in the 42nd minute, his shot bounced off the shins of the Academy players standing in the front row.
Monarchs owner Dell Loy Hansen sat on the east stands. As the sun making its way toward the horizon cast a glare across the stadium, Hansen passed out blue plastic visors. The east stands had a view up through the Salt Lake Valley. The fans on the opposite had a clear line of sight toward the Wasatch Mountains, still dusted with snow.
“You could feel the atmosphere,” said Monarchs coach Mark Briggs. “You could feel the fans up close and the environment with the drums going, the fans singing. I thought everything apart from the performance was a different class tonight.”
The Monarchs went up a man in the 18th minute when Las Vegas defender Marcelo Alatorre saw a red card for a foul just outside the penalty box. But the Salt Lake side was unable to capitalize on the man advantage, taking 15 shots but failing to put any of them in the back of the net.
“I think it’s the little details,“ Briggs said. “I think its the focus. I think it’s concentration. I think we have to score chances in the first half when we’re two yards out, five yards out, one-on-one with the goalkeeper. If you don’t take your chances you don’t win games. It’s as simple as that.”
In addition to the regular Monarchs stars — returners Chandler Hoffman and Sebastian Saucedo, and newcomers Kacher and Maikel Chang — the Monarchs started three first-team players. RSL backup goalkeeper Connor Sparrow is a regular on the USL side, but midfielder Luke Mullholland made his first appearance of the year with the Monarchs. Defender Adam Henley played his second USL match.