The Real Monarchs had never won a postseason game before this autumn. Now, they’ve won three, and punched their ticket to the United Soccer League’s championship match in the process.
The Monarchs defeated the El Paso Locomotive 2-1 on Saturday at Zions Bank Stadium to win the Western Conference and advance to the USL Cup Final against Louisville City on Nov. 17 in Louisville.
“This group has been nothing but exceptional,” defender Kalen Ryden said. "This means so much to so many people.”
Interim coach Jamison Olave said the Monarchs still have players from when Real Salt Lake interim coach Freddy Juarez led the Monarchs several years ago. He said he was proud of the group’s accomplishment.
“They deserve it,” Olave said.
The conference final was minutes away from going to penalty kicks, but Erik Holt had other plans. The Real Monarchs defender headed in a goal in the 120th minute to lift the Monarchs to the title game.
Holt’s shot came on a floated cross into the box. He got his head on it and it sailed into the top left corner of the goal.
Soon after Holt’s goal, there was a scuffle on the sideline that had to be broken up. The fracas continued after the final whistle before finally dissipating. The Monarchs then held on for the final three minutes of injury time to seal the win.
The game went into extra time after a 1-1 tie at the end of the first 90 minutes. El Paso broke the scoring seal just before the halftime whistle when defender Andrew Fox put one in the box.
But the Monarchs equalized shortly after the second half started. Ryden finished a point-blank shot off a volley after the free-kick ball bounded around in the box.
The previous two games between the Locomotive and Monarchs ended in scoreless draws.
Louisville City FC beat the Indy 11 in the Eastern Conference final, 3-1.
This story will be updated.