SACRAMENTO – Professional soccer is back in the capital city. After a pair of preseason matches versus MLS side Real Salt Lake and San Jose, the boys in Old Glory Red returned home to Papa Murphy’s Park on April 24 to host Real Monarchs in front of a modest 2000 fans. This marked the first time fans were allowed back into the venue for a match since March 7, 2020. It was shortly thereafter that everything shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.

After 18 fan-free matches, save for a few friends and family toward the end of last season, some of the supporters were back. The Tower Bridge Battalion did not disappoint, and for the first time in over a year, things felt a real step closer to normal. Masks remain required, of course. With white balls of cottonwood blowing through the air like some sort of surreal spring snowfall, it was surely for the best.

The pandemic remains an issue, so everyone in attendance must remain mindful both of those on the pitch and those in the stands.  Republic FC was certainly mindful of the fans in attendance, and they showed it. Early aggressive play led to an impressive in-your-face goal by Cameron Iwasa off a precision assist by Duke Lacroix (16′), and that set the tone.

Republic FC goal keeper Rafael Diaz was solid in the net until subbed (62′) shortly into the second half. His replacement, Jesus Sanchez, played brilliantly and maintained the shutout. After coming on late, Sacramento’s leading goal scorer last season, Dariusz Formella, made an aggressive charge with the back of the net clearly on his mind. At the last minute, he saw Iwasa to his left and demonstrated the kind of unselfish leadership the club truly needs to be successful. A quick pass to Iwasa led to another goal (89′); count it, an assist for Formella and a brace for Iwasa.

Say what you will about the match being a preseason friendly, no one plays to lose, especially not when the opponent is a regular season foe. The clubs will meet again June 9, and that score will count. Let there be no doubt, Real Monarchs will look to avenge the preseason loss. However, Sacramento’s vastly improved backline and midfield anchored by one-time MLS side San Jose Earthquakes midfielder, and 2020 Columbus Crew MLS Cup champion, Fatai Alashe, were nearly impenetrable.

After the match, Head Coach Mark Briggs repeatedly said there’s a lot of work to be done and a lot that needs to be improved; however, he was clear about the positives and was delighted with the outcome. “It’s been a good preseason,” he said, but he was quick to move on and shift the focus to the April 30 regular season opener on the road versus LA Galaxy II. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30pm PST.

Sacramento Republic FC returns to Papa Murphy’s Park on Wednesday, May 12 to host Las Vegas Lights FC. Kickoff for that match is also scheduled for 7:30pm PST.

Ahsan Awan has been covering sports for over a decade, including professional soccer and Sacramento Republic FC since their debut in 2014. All images taken by Ahsan Awan for American Presswire and ©2021 American Presswire. He can be found on Twitter as @quackarazzi and on Instagram as @quackarazzi.