Herriman • The Real Monarchs continue to make club history on this postseason run they’re on. It continued in unpredictable fashion when they beat the Phoenix Rising last week to advance to the United Soccer League Western Conference Finals.
But the Monarchs weren’t surprised at all about beating the Rising. In fact, the result was consistent with how they’ve playing for almost two months, a stretch that has seen them go 6-0-1.
“To us, it didn’t feel necessarily like an upset,” midfielder Jack Blake said after training Thursday. “It might have [been] to the league. But going into the game, we felt full with confidence. We knew that we had the capability of beating them.”
The Monarchs are looking to take that same confidence and mentality into Saturday’s match against the El Paso Locomotive at Zions Bank Stadium. But that doesn’t meant they think the conference finals are going to be easy just because they beat the best team in the West last week.
REAL MONARCHS VS. EL PASO LOCOMOTIVE
Where • Zions Bank Stadium, Herriman
When • Saturday, 1 p.m.
“We’re confident because of the way we play,” interim Monarchs coach Jamison Olave said. “We’re confident because the team is playing well. Because players are playing well. Because we are playing as a team.”
Part of what’s helped the Monarchs play at such a high level is that lately, there’s been consistency in the lineups from game to game, Blake said. The English midfielder added that changing to the 3-5-2 formation in October made a difference.
Olave said the team changed formations because he had the personnel to do it. And although the first game of the change — a 2-0 home win over Orange County — didn’t look perfect, the club eventually settled in.
Forward Maikel Chang said the difference in the team the past couple of months boils down to something more simple.
“The difference was we started to be confident in the team,” Chang said. "We started to have confidence in ourselves.”
The Monarchs had to deal with off-the-field adversity as well during the course of the season. Olave stepped in as interim coach after Martin Vazquez left the team in July after being named coach in January.
It’s Olave’s second stint as interim coach in consecutive seasons. He was named to the position when Mark Briggs resigned after domestic violence charges against him were dropped.
Chang said both instances were trying on the players, but he spoke positively about how Olave handled each situation. Olave said he learned lessons from his first stint as interim coach.
“I wasn’t feeling that confident when I was the interim head coach the first time,” Olave said. “Now I feel more confident just [making] decisions.”
Both games against the Locomotive in the regular season ended in scoreless draws. Blake is not expecting the same type of game Saturday.
“Those two games, we’ve got completed different lineups, completely different formations, completely different momentum going into the games,” Blake said. “I don’t think those games are going to be any similar to the game this Saturday.”