HERRIMAN — For the Las Vegas Lights, the internet-famous llamas didn't make the trip. And For the Real Monarchs, the goals didn't come as they showed off their brand-new stadium for the first time.
Conner Sparrow earned his second clean sheet of the year, but the Monarchs left disappointed with a scoreless draw against I-15 derby rival Las Vegas at Zions Bank Stadium.
Ricardo Ferrino earned the shutout for the Lights (2-3-1), which played with just 10 men for the final 70 minutes.
Sparrow earned his second shutout in as many complete games with the Monarchs (4-1-1), his first action for Real Salt Lake’s second-division club since a 1-0 win April 7 over Phoenix Rising.
“The stadium is great. It was nice to break it in,” Sparrow said. “It’s good to keep a zero at the back, but we got a little lucky at the end. At the end of a day, we kept a zero.
“The focus on always keeping a shutout first is still there. Not much has changed (from last year).”
Still, the clean sheet was perhaps the easy part. The Monarchs out-shot Las Vegas 15-3, held the Lights without a shot on target for all 90 minutes-plus stoppage time, and played with a man-advantage for more than two-thirds of the match.
Yet no goal came to send the near-sellout crowd of 4,065 away happy, leading to the Monarchs' first draw of the 2018 season.
“I thought the atmosphere, the fans and everything was fantastic. But I thought the performance as nowhere near good enough,” a visibly upset Monarchs coach Mark Briggs said after the draw. “The final ball wasn’t good enough tonight, and it hasn’t been good enough in the first five games before it. Our final ball has to be improved.
“We’ve got to get used to the surface, but that’s not an excuse. Our final ball has to be more perfect, and we have to be more clinical.”
Las Vegas’ Marcelo Alatorre was sent off with a red card just 18 minutes into the match, forcing the visitors to play with 10 men early on in the historic night.
But Maikel Chang’s free kick attempt from just outside the box on the ensuing play slammed harmlessly against the wall, and the Monarchs couldn’t find the back of the net in the first half.
Time after time, the Monarchs lurched forward. With 70 percent of possession and 85 percent total passing, the chances were there for one goal to send their fans home happy in the first-ever “I-15 derby” against the closest geographic opponent to Salt Lake City in the USL.
But the moment never came.
“With being a man-up, it makes it easier on our part,” defender Kalen Ryden said. “But we still have to stay switched on, and then we kept a clean sheet tonight.
“There are positives to take away, but it balances out because they were down a man. We just weren’t clinical around the goal. Everyone had opportunities tonight … we just couldn’t find the back of the net tonight.”
Chandler Hoffman nearly bagged his team-record 50th professional goal less than two minutes into the second half, but the offside flag was up as he delivered a laser inside the near post.
Hoffman wouldn’t make history with the third 50-goal career in the USL’s modern era, as he left the match after a little more than an hour on the pitch.
The Monarchs also got away with a late chance.
“Luckily we were able to keep a zero,” Sparrow reiterated. “Their goalie also kept a clean sheet being a man-down, so he has the same mentality as me.”
Sammy Ochoa took advantage of an empty net, catching Sparrow off guard to put a ball off a diving header into goal in the 85th minute. But the Las Vegas forward was ruled offside, sending a sigh of relief to the 4,065 fans in attendance.
“Conner’s a very good goalkeeper. He still has a lot to learn, but he brings a composure to us, an ability to play out of the back, and we’re always happy to have Conner with us.
“He’s still got a lot to learn, and these games are very important for his development.”
In addition to Sparrow, RSL midfielder Luke Mulholland started for the Monarchs, as did teammate Adam Henley at right back. Danny Acosta and Ricky Lopez-Espin, both of whom saw time for Real Salt Lake over the weekend in Vancouver, were available as substitutes for Briggs' side, and Lopez-Espin entered as a second-half substitute.
Real Monarchs host Orange County SC in a Star Wars-themed match Friday, May 4 at 7 p.m. MT. The match will be streamed live on the KSL TV app and ESPN+.
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