HERRIMAN — Nobody would’ve blamed Real Monarchs SLC for taking a tie Friday night, a second-straight draw at their brand-new home on the western edge of the Salt Lake Valley.
Real Salt Lake's second-division side was down a man, hosting Western Conference-leading Orange County Soccer Club, and holding on to a 1-1 draw.
But in an instant, all that changed.
Juan Mare scored the game-winner in the first minute of stoppage time to lift the shorthanded Real Monarchs to their first win at Zions Bank Stadium, 2-1 over Orange County SC in front of 1,644 fans Friday night.
“I feel very good,” Mare said in Spanish after the match. “Truthfully, the team needed the win. It was a great game. It was a great goal, but Maikel just gave it to me and I put it away.
“I’m happy for the team, for my teammates. That’s what we’re looking for.”
Goalkeeper Conner Sparrow made nine saves to lift the Monarchs (5-1-2) to the win, and a tie with Orange County (5-2-3) atop the Western Conference standings.
“We had our backs against the wall,” Monarchs coach Mark Briggs said. “But Juan’s been patient; he hasn’t had much playing time. But he had a good attitude, and Juan came in and won the game for us by putting us in the top corner.
“I’m over the moon with the three points, but I’m extremely pleased for Juan. He deserves that.”
Maikel Chang opened the new stadium’s scoring books with a goal less than seven minutes into the match. Chang finished off a corner kick in the sixth minute that was his first goal in a Real Monarchs uniform, and the home side took a 1-1 tie into halftime.
Orange County’s Aodhan Quinn equalized from the penalty spot after the Monarchs gave up a foul inside the box in first-half stoppage time.
Monarchs midfielder Charlie Adams was ejected with a red card after denying a goal-scoring opportunity with about 10 minutes remaining. That opened the floodgates for Orange County, who poured it on against Sparrow and the Monarchs' back line.
Orange County put the bulk of its nine shots on goal in the final 10 minutes. But Sparrow stood tall, including back-to-back saves in the final minute of regulation. When the goalkeeper looked up, Chang was leading a counter attack. The savvy striker dished to an open Mare, who took a touch and finished off the match-winning goal in the first minute of stoppage time for the Monarchs' first win in Herriman after a disappointing 0-0 draw Monday night against Las Vegas.
“You could feel the pressure for a while," Sparrow said. "They were putting it on us, being a man-down. And then it was pure elation when Juan finished it.
“My thought was just to hold out for a tie. But you really can’t beat winning a man-down.”
THE WINNER 🙌🏼😍 pic.twitter.com/n3IsGvaPPk— Real Monarchs (@RealMonarchs) May 5, 2018
Sparrow, the Real Salt Lake backup ’keeper who has yet to allow a goal from the run of play in three matches in USL play, had plenty to do with the win, too, Briggs added.
“Conner kept us in the game,” the second-year Salt Lake head coach said. “But that’s what a team is for. He’s paid to keep the ball out of the net, and Juan is paid to put the ball in the back of the net. I’m over the moon with the collective attitude.
“I still feel there is more to come from us. But that’s a pleasing thing: I don’t think we’ve hit anywhere near our form. But they're still grinding out results. We’ve lost one game, drew one game, and we’ve won the rest. We are nowhere near hitting our peak form.”
Real Monarchs continue their four-match homestand Wednesday, May 9, against Swope Park Rangers. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Zions Bank Stadium in Herriman.
Orange County hosts Saint Louis FC at 8 p.m. MDT Saturday, May 12.