Real Monarchs SLC won its most recent meeting against Reno 1868 FC 2-1 at Zions Bank Stadium on August 8. | Photo courtesy Real Monarchs SLC
HERRIMAN, Utah – Two teams searching for their first USL Cup Playoffs victories collide in the Western Conference Quarterfinals when No. 4-seed Real Monarchs SLC hosts No. 5 seed Reno 1868 FC on Saturday (5 p.m. ET | Match Center | ESPN+) at Zions Bank Stadium.
The Monarchs made the postseason for the first time in franchise history last year, claiming the USL Regular Season Championship with 67 points before seeing their USL Cup aspirations disappear in the conference quarterfinals after a penalty shootout loss to No. 8-seed Sacramento Republic FC. Meanwhile, Reno’s record-breaking inaugural season – which saw the side claim the West’s No. 3 seed on 59 points – ended abruptly with a 1-0 home defeat to OKC Energy FC.
One team will experience a change in fortunes this time around in what both sides expect to be an evenly-matched contest. The Monarchs and 1868 FC split their two regular-season meetings this season, with Reno picking up a 3-0 victory at Greater Nevada Field in July before Real returned the favor a month later with a 2-1 win at Zions Bank Stadium.
Monarchs midfielder Charlie Adams believes his side can replicate that result this weekend after finishing the regular season with back-to-back wins to end a seven-game winless run.
“We know the quality in the group and we know what we can do,” said Adams. “We had a dip in form and now we’re back at our best and now we’re confident and that’s the main thing. The mentality is right and we’re confident to be our best.”
Those end-of-season results didn’t just help the Monarchs regain their confidence, but it prevented them from falling out of top four and consequently heading on the road to start the postseason. That could be a huge advantage for a side that finished 13-2-2 at Zions Bank Stadium this season, recording the most home wins of any team in the USL.
Despite the setback in August, Reno won’t be overly worried about having to travel to Utah for its opening-round matchup after losing just twice away from Greater Nevada Field this campaign (7-2-8). 1868 FC all-time leading scorer Brian Brown, who found the back of the net three times in two games against the Monarchs this season, is anticipating another tough test but believes his squad that enters the contest on a seven-game unbeaten run can get the job done.
“I expect a good game against a Salt Lake team every time,” said Brown. “They are a pretty good team and I’ve had a good season against them. I’m looking forward to hopefully getting on the scoresheet again. Hopefully we can get the result and advance.”