SRFC Quails Salty After Seemingly Self-Inflicted Loss

SACRAMENTO – Wearing their new all-white California Quail kits, Republic FC, embracing their unofficial nickname, the Quails, under the leadership of Head Coach Mark Briggs, took to the pitch last night versus division leader Phoenix Rising FC. New jersey, newly branded stadium, a revenge match after last season's playoff-ending goal by Solomon Asante that was clearly a hand ball; but most of all, defense of history -- Phoenix had never beaten Sacramento on the road. Moreover, Phoenix Rising had never scored a goal in Sacramento. Their last one was during Sacramento's inaugural USL season in 2014. Then Arizona United SC, Phoenix Rising FC simply didn't exist. Of course, Sacramento would go on to win the championship that year, and they would begin their quest for elevation to MLS with a star added to the kit.

Perhaps this season was a star-worthy season. Perhaps it still is. At 2-2 with 6 points in 4 matches, Sacramento isn't out by any means. Sitting fourth in the standings with upcoming matches versus the two teams below them on the board, the boys usually dressed in old glory red have the potential to create real separation between the top and bottom four within the division by the end of the week. Albeit a bit early to be separating with any safety, a pair of wins would certainly ensure Republic doesn't fall too far behind the leaders, if not land them right up there with them.

Heading into Saturday evening though, Republic was 2-1. Six points could've become nine. That was the plan. Unfortunately, that plan never had a chance. Sacramento never got anything going. Phoenix looked every bit in command from the opening kick. Short of calling the match a disaster, it certainly felt like a waste of time. The lineup was off. The energy was off. Despite the physicality (31 total fouls), the intensity was non-existent; that is, it was non-existent on the pitch. Mark Briggs was perturbed, to say the least. He seemed salty and annoyed. He said the night was disappointing, but to be a fly on the wall in the post-match locker room would surely have been a popcorn the crunch of which couldn't mask what must have been a colorful conversation.

The worst part about the loss isn't that Republic lost. It's not even that Phoenix won. The worst part is the sense that Sacramento didn't fight. The match never got aggressive. The disciplinary summary reflects that. Three yellow cards on Phoenix, ZERO on Sacramento. The home team did not fight. While Sacramento notched 16 fouls, Phoenix tallied 15. The physicality of play was essentially even. Sacramento just never pushed the limits. Sacramento also logged half as many shots, and not a one was on target. Despite dominating the corner seven to one, everything else was even.

According to Phoenix Manager Rick Schantz, the key to the match was tempo control. Phoenix demonstrated strength and maturity  by balancing tempo on the road. They didn't dominate, they didn't log lopsided minutes in either direction. They maintained possession 48% of the match versus Sacramento's 52%, but their passes were accurate 75% of the time versus Sacramento's 71%. That led to twice as many shots (13), 4 on target (versus Sacramento's 0). Phoenix had a balanced attack, a solid match plan, and they executed like a team on a mission to contend for a championship.

So what went wrong for Sacramento? Phoenix's lone goal cam in the sixty-second minute. They got their third yellow card just five minutes later. Then came the substitutions. Sacramento sent midfielder Tucker Bone in for striker Dariusz Formella. They took out defender Shannon Gomez and replaced him with Jordan McCrary. They also replaced midfielder Fatai Alashe with striker Cameron Iwasa. All of that happened by the 70th minute. In the 87th minute, Republic replaced striker Kharlton Belmar with striker Julian Chavez.

Perhaps the issue is the lineup. Perhaps some of those coming off the bench should be starting on the pitch. Perhaps some of those who are underperforming should be dealt with differently. Many an armchair manager has a theory about what would work better, who would work better, but none of them are on the pitch working with the club day after day. Mark Briggs is a solid leader. His plan is equally worthy of trust. The starting IX simply need to fight harder, draw contact, draw cards, get shots on goal, get shots on target; and of course, they need to find the back of the net.

That last point is perhaps the most important. Republic FC needs to find the back of the net, and they need to do it more than their opponents. They'll get their chance twice this week. Sacramento begins a two match home stand at Heart Health Park welcoming USL's newest championship level club, Oakland Roots SC, on Wednesday, Just 2 at 8:00 PM, and then Orange County SC just three days later on Saturday, June 5 at 8:00 PM. Both matches will be broadcast live on ESPN+, KQCA My58, and Estrella TV. The June 5 match versus OCSC will also be broadcast live on SiriusXM satellite radio.

Ahsan Awan has been covering sports for over a decade, and has been covering 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.


Patience, Persistence, Keys to Quakes' Season

SAN JOSE – What goes up comes down. Nothing could be more true for the San Jose Earthquakes during the month of May. Two and a half weeks ago, they were on top of the western conference standings with 9 points. They were momentarily alone, and then in a tie for first place. Now, 17 days and 3 straight losses later, they cling to the seven spot and could be pushed down one more, and below the playoff qualifying line, if Austin prevails over Nashville tonight.

At the other end of the spectrum, the Seattle Sounders, who were responsible for the Earthquakes' first loss, and who then tied them with 9 points on May 6, are now alone in first place with 17 points after a 1-1 tie versus Atlanta today.

For San Jose, the next three matches are on the road. The first match is the LA leg of the Cali Clasico versus the LA Galaxy on May 29. After a much needed pause to regroup, they travel to Austin to compete on June 19. Then they head to Orlando for a match just three days later on June 22. Then they return home to play the LA Galaxy once again, this time at home at PayPal Park. However, by the time they get home, they very well could be licking the wounds of a 6-match skid, and would surely be flirting with last place in the west.

After a cobweb-wiping wake up on the road in Houston, the Quakes turned red hot and won three straight while outscoring their opponents 9-3. That last win came courtesy of MLS's all-time greatest player, Chris Wondolowski, coming off the bench cold for the last 10 minutes of regulation play and finding just the right spot to score two goals in a six minute span. Wondo is the Quakes' most valuable player, their moral leader and their captain. He is priceless.

Since that performance, the Quakes have lost three straight and have been outscored by their opponents 6-1! That's right, the once red hot Earthquakes have only scored one goal in the past three matches. What is going on? Is it talent? Is it fatigue? Is it coaching, management or ownership? Is it just bad luck? To what should the 180 degree reversal of outcomes be attributed?

"When we won, we played fast and hard, we were aggressive and over the top. We played north-south and we made shots on goal," said one north end fan who asked not to be named. "This tiqui-taca does not work," he continued, "our talent doesn't do short passing and possession well. They punch you in the mouth and find the back of the net." Tiqui-taca refers to the classic Spanish style that involves short passing, possession, and precision channel work on the pitch.

Versus Sporting Kansas City last night, Cade Cowell was quiet, Andy Rios was ineffective, and Espinoza worked under caution after an early yellow card. Chofis was hot early, and set the tone with an early goal to send the Quakes up 1-0 (4'), but it was all Sporting KC from there. While the equalizer came soon thereafter (15'), Kansas City didn't go ahead until the second half (60' and 75').

According to another observer, the Quakes looked tired. There were quite a few hands on hips during official pauses. Perhaps it really is that simple and the team was just tired last night, but that may not explain three losses in a row, and it certainly won't explain another three. The Quakes need to turn this around.

What about the GOAT, the moral leader and captain; where's Wondo? He came on late, once again, in an apparent goal-chasing move that left a seemingly ineffective Andy Rios in while taking midfielder Tommy Thompson out. Thompson's exit clearly weakened the Quakes' transition defense, and absolutely contributed to KC's ability to move down field relatively unchallenged.

That raises the question, is there something amiss with coaching? Another north end fan, who also wished to remain nameless, said "(Keeper) JT (Marcinkowski) came off his line again and it cost him." Surely if there's an issue with this, it can be corrected. San Jose has good keepers, and has a solid position coach working the goal.

The general lineup seems to more of a sore spot with many though. Exiting PayPal Park after the match, many fans could be heard asking why Chris Wondolowski and Shea Salinas weren't starting. People asked why Brazilian international defender Judson wasn't in the lineup. Some suggested the short week and three match stretch was to blame, but others perhaps fairly pointed out that these are professional athletes in the best shape and condition of their lives. They can handle it.

It is never easy to lose. It is never easy to sink in the standings. It is never easy to fall below the line. However, fans may be better off demonstrating some patience. The season is young. There's a long way to go. While point deficits are difficult to make up, the opportunity to remain above the line is not at all lost. If the Quakes can split the record on the road by going even 1-1-1, they'' return home with 13 points and enter the second leg of the Clasico with a chance to finish exactly where Seattle is right now.

They say patience is a virtue, and while Quakes fans have been waiting a long time for a solid winning season, let alone a new star on the kit, it's too early to let the frustration and concern over a few losses derail the focus and disrupt the mission. Remember, Earthquakes never say die. When in doubt, look to the GOAT, look to the moral leader; what would Wondo do? Odds favor him doing what he has always done: practice well, be ready, and make a difference if and when the opportunity presents itself. Indeed, patience and persistence will keep the roller coaster on the rails. There's a long season ahead.

San Jose travels to Los Angeles to face the LA Galaxy on Saturday, May 29 at 4:00 PM Pacific, and returns home to face the Galaxy again on June 26 at 7:00 PM Pacific.

Ahsan Awan has been covering sports for over a decade, and has been covering professional soccer, and the San Jose Earthquakes, since 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.


Fierce, Ferocious and Nasty: Recipe of a Champion

SACRAMENTO – In high heat that narrowly missed triple digits, Mark Briggs and his Republic FC squad took the pitch versus a visiting Las Vegas Lights cub touting affiliation with MLS side LAFC. They brought a reported seven LAFC reserve players with them on what was the inaugural match day at the newly rebranded Heart Health Park sponsored by Western Health Advantage. Approximately 2000 fans were once again in attendance, including Republic FC owner Kevin Nagle and Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg.

Despite all that firepower, the Lights lost 3-1. Sacramento got the win and the points. At 2-0, the boys in old glory red are off to a great start. Tied for first with Phoenix, and facing an Orange County club that just activated loan signings from Scottish Premiership side Rangers FC on the road in Irvine on May 22, it's imminently clear there are no easy contests. If Sacramento is to add another star to the kit in 2021, they're going to have to do something perhaps rarely distinguished as what to do in order to keep on winning. Sacramento is going to have to do exactly what they have been doing. Sure, there's always room to improve, but the physical, fast and focused way this team plays is precisely why they're undefeated.

On a night where two of Republic's more experienced talents (Cameron Iwasa, Fatai Alashe) were unavailable, it was Sacramento's outstanding forward, Dariusz Formella, who stepped up and notched both a goal (13'; his first of the season) and an assist. The goal was made possible by a laser precise assist by defender (playing from the right half) Shannon Gomez deep in the box. Although Las Vegas appeared to regain control for what remained of the half, the Republic backline, combined with an excellent goalkeeping performance by Tomas Gomez, protected Sacramento's narrow lead.

Early in the second half, Las Vegas capitalized on a penalty (51') and managed to equalize. However, Sacramento was not to be stopped. Midfielder Tucker Bone found the back of the net for the go ahead score (65') to make it 2-1, and Jaime Villarreal added a back-breaker (72') to make it 3-1.

The match featured 26 fouls, 18 of which were committed by Sacramento. Additionally, there ere a total of 5 yellow cards issued, and 4 of those were assigned to the home team. Thankfully, there were no red cards, though there may have been several incidents that likely would have drawn red just about anywhere else. One thing is certain, Republic plays tough, rough and nasty. Don't confuse nasty for dirty, the two are not the same. Nasty is how you have to be, while simultaneously physical and focused. It's a ferocity fundamental to championship contention this club may very well be capable of.

The final factor separating contenders from pretenders is chemistry, and Republic FC appears to have it. Speed of the passing game, being in the right place at the right time, intuitive relative positioning and spacing that enables accurate no-look passing and the ability to evade defenders while maintaining possession, and ultimately the ability to unselfishly position in order to collectively find the back of the net -- Sacramento has demonstrated that, and more of that, in every match.

Sacramento travels to Irvine to face Orange County SC on Saturday, May 22 at 7:00 PM Pacific. The club hosts Phoenix Rising FC at Heart Health Park on Saturday, May 29 at 7:30 PM Pacific. Both matches will be viewable on ESPN+.

Ahsan Awan has been covering sports for over a decade, and has been covering 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.


Earthquakes Never Say Die

SAN JOSE - Matias Almeyda is back, and so are the members of a San Jose Earthquakes squad last seen showing signs of brilliance during the 2020 MLS is Back tournament, and then backing that up with a regular season remainder where they posted a less than brilliant 6-9-4 record. There were definite signs of improvement, and despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, there was plenty to be optimistic about heading into 2021.

And so it happened, having last competed in a 3-3 tie that led to a shootout with Sporting KC that ended with Kansas City taking the points, the Earthquakes began 2021 with all the speed and strength fans witnessed the emergence of in 2020. First with a 6-1 thrashing of USL Championship side Sacramento Republic FC on April 2, Then a 3-2 defeat of neighboring Oakland Roots SC on April 9, they entered MLS play on the road.

The first match vs the Houston Dynamo on April 16 ended in a 2-1 loss that really could have swung the other way but for a few calls, a few no-calls, and an errant shot on goal. The Quakes wiped away the cobwebs and got serious. On April 24, the Quakes were fast, physical and dominant in a 3-1 victory over FC Dallas accompanied by a red card (89') for the great Chris Wondolowski. Taking one for the team, setting the tone for the season, Wondo's 'Never Say Die' style is not only a sight to behold, it's a mantra and an energy to be absorbed.

And absorbed it was. The Quakes hosted DC United on May 1 in what can only be characterized as the most electrifying punch-in-the-throat power flex ever to occur on the club's home pitch. PayPal Park, formerly Earthquakes Stadium, previously known as Avaya Stadium, is where home is, and last Saturday's sabre rattle started early.

La Chofis got things going with a quick strike in the first minute of play that sent everyone erupting in cheers. It was his first MLS goal. With limited fans on hand, both the Ultras and Faultline supporters groups forced echoes off the seatbacks that filled the air. Who is Chofis, you might ask. For those who don't know, he's #9, an outstanding attacking midfielder/winger from Torreon, Mexico. His full name is Javier Eduardo Lopez Ramirez. Statistics sheets will often cite E. Lopez. Make no mistake, he is every bit the nickname earned while at Chivas de Guadalajara, he is fantastic, and he is La Chofis.

With heads spinning at how quickly the Quakes got on the board, the team played an up tempo aggressive style with as much athleticism from a backline coming up as from a frontline dropping back. It was indeed all hands at all levels across the pitch, and the Earthquakes were in clear control. A rocket from 17 year old phenom Cade Cowell (26') burned a hole through the air and lit up the back of the net. He wasn't done there. Cowell played strong, fast and physical all night, and he didn't just stay forward. He ran the full pitch and played defense as well as any forward winger in the game. Cade's footsteps literally sent vibrations across the line and to the north end wall. He is 100% Earthquake, and he embodies the Never Say Die spirit.

Keeper JT Marcinkowski played brilliantly in goal managing 18 shots, 7 of which were on target. Add nearly a half dozen set plays off the corner alone, and DCU kept him busy. A lone goal by Costa Rican international defender Jose Vazquez (31') quickly reminded the Quakes that DC was not to be blown off, but that's where it ended. From there, it was all Quakes. Not only did they control the ball and wear down the clock, midfielder Jackson Yueill added two goals (43', 85') to seal the outcome.

Not to be forgotten, center back Florian Jungwirth. Playing from back to front, and sporting the longest hair on the pitch, Jungwirth displays a raw on-the-edge energy unparalleled in backline play. With every step, he reminds opponents that he will not be beaten. His goal line save in the second half kept the match at 3-1 and all but ensured the Quakes mantra, Never Say Die.

San Jose finished the night with a dominant 4-1 statement supported by the two stars on their kit: this club is for real, and these men want the cup. It's early, and a lot can happen, but even with Wondo out due to his red card the week before, every member of the club embraced and embodied equal energy and passion. The fight is real, and the San Jose Earthquakes will Never Say Die.

The Earthquakes compete on the road on Friday, May 7 at Real Salt Lake. That match kicks off at 6:30pm PST. The club returns home to PayPal Park on Wednesday, May 12 to host the Seattle Sounders. That kickoff is scheduled for 7:30pm PST.

Ahsan Awan has been covering sports for over a decade, including professional soccer and the San Jose Earthquakes since 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.


Boys in red return to the pitch

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.


The Power and Paradox of Two

SACRAMENTO – Two weeks, two matches, two ties; two points up, yet two wins back. The next two matches are on the road. The power and paradox of two is profound. Sacramento Republic FC has a record of 7-1-5. Their 26 points rank second in USL Championship Group A. Reno 1868, with a record of 10-2-1, sits in first place with 31 points. With only three matches to go, Sacramento not only needs two wins to climb into first place, they need Reno to lose. Furthermore, in the third of the matches remaining, Sacramento would either need a win over Portland, or ties by both them and Reno, to finish the season in first place. The task ahead is not only complex, but also complicated. It is not enough that Sacramento wins, Reno must lose – twice!

Two weeks ago, it was Sam Werner (5’), Dariusz Formella (32’), and Jaime Villareal (74’) finding the back of the net for the boys in red. Unfortunately, a walk-off equalizer (90’) by Reno’s Aidan Apodaco spoiled Sacramento’s chance at a crucial win at a time when they were tied with Reno in Group A.

Coming off that exciting match, Sacramento’s Kharlton Belmar was selected as a striker for USL’s Team of the Week. The honor was his ninth selection honor. In addition, winger Villyan Bijev and keeper Rafael Diaz ere both nominated for Fans Choice Awards, Bijev for Goal of the Week and Diaz for Save of the Week. Both nominations stemmed from the previous week’s performance versus Orange County SC.

Indeed, this one-loss Republic FC squad is among the best in the league and ranks second all-time behind only Sacramento’s 2014 championship squad. If this squad can bring home the trophy and add a second star to the kit, perhaps a healthy debate will begin.

Sunday night, however, it was back to business at Papa Murphy’s Park. Sacramento faced a Tacoma squad they defeated previously 3-1 at home on August 15. This time was different though. Sacramento was on it is third keeper after losing Adam Grinwis earlier in the season, and then apparently sitting Diaz for undisclosed reasons. That led to MLS side Nashville SC reserve keeper (on loan) Brady Scott’s debut in the Starting XI.

At face value, Sacramento’s starting lineup last night did not make sense. Given the stakes, sticking with what worked previously would likely been advised. A new body in goal, Formella playing in a perhaps personally favored but visibly less-effective position on the left side when he is clearly stronger on the right, Rodrigo Lopez on the bench, what was the plan?

Sacramento has tremendous bench depth though, and the boys in red proved that. Tacoma scored first (3’), but Sacramento quickly regained composure and battled for possession around midfield for the remainder of the first half. The frontline was ineffective, but the backline did not yield. In fact, Republic would equalize just three minutes into the second half (48’) on a brilliant strike by Bijev courtesy of an assist from Werner.

A short time later, Belmar would put Sacramento ahead 2-1 on a penalty kick (60’). Unfortunately, Tacoma would answer and restore the tie (66’). With subs coming on, Republic neither strengthened the backline defensively, nor added striking power to the frontline offensively. Instead, substitutions focused on midfielders.

With time winding down, Republic’s backline would break again, giving up a goal (86’) to break the tie and put Tacoma up 3-2. However, just as all hope seemed lost, Sacramento’s most valuable veteran, Rodrigo Lopez found the back of the net (90’) equalizing the match once more.

Neither club made much of the four minutes of stoppage time and the match ended in a 3-3 tie. While it is always great not to lose, and getting one point is better than nothing, Reno’s 5-2 win over Portland meant they went from 28 up to 31 points in Group A, while Republic went from 25 to 26. That means Sacramento is now 5 points behind Reno. The club needs two wins to get out in front, and probably needs to win out. Meanwhile, they need Reno to lose two. That may seem like wishful thinking, but their final stretch begins with Sacramento, then they host Las Vegas, before finishing on the road in Tacoma. Anything is possible.

Sacramento competes in Reno vs the 1868 on Saturday, September 26 at 6:30pm Pacific and in Tacoma versus the Defiance on Wednesday, September 30 at 7pm Pacific. Both matches will be broadcast live on KQCA My58, Estrella TV, and through ESPN+. Republic FC wraps up the modified 2020 regular season on Saturday, October 3, when Portland Timbers 2 returns to Papa Murphy’s Park for a scheduled 7:30pm kickoff.

Ahsan Awan has been covering sports for over a decade, and has been covering professional soccer, and Sacramento Republic FC since their debut in 2014. Images taken by Ahsan Awan and David Barpal for American Presswire and ©2020 American Presswire unless otherwise marked. Ahsan Awan can be found on Twitter and Instagram as @quackarazzi.


Roro Sees Red; SRFC puts OC to Bed

SACRAMENTO – Under apocalyptic skies with ash raining down like snowflakes, Republic FC welcomed the return of Orange County SC to Papa Murphy’s Park. Their originally scheduled match was delayed due to a safety protocol formality based on a positive COVID-19 test registered by a member of another club. There would be no such issue this time.

Entering the match with 21 points, tied for the lead but one spot behind rival Reno 1868 FC (21), who was scheduled to compete at PMP just three days later, Sacramento needed a win to stay in the hunt for the USL Group A lead. Momentum was surely on their side statistically, especially given the string of victories in recent weeks. The addition of Cuban forward Frank Lopez to the roster surely fueled excitement.

Orange County, for their part, came in with 18 points in USL Group B. Sitting behind Phoenix Rising (23) and LA Galaxy II (18), OCSC boasts a notable roster including Sean “Ugo” Okoli, Darwin Jones, and former SRFC forward Thomas Enevoldsen. They also have several talented players from the Scottish Premier League’s Rangers FC. On paper, at least, they tend to appear the favorite in most contests.

Indeed, OCSC began the match aggressively with Okoli scoring very early (5’) to set the tone. In fact, the first half saw Sacramento struggle to get by the OCSC backline despite leading duels won, passes, passing accuracy and possession. The boys in red even had more total shots, but never found the back of the net and looked rather uninspired.

Cameron Iwasa looked tired, and Rodrigo Lopez appeared at times out-muscled. It really did not look like Sacramento’s night. At halftime, however, Kharlton Belmar was substituted in for Iwasa, and the energy was about to shift.

A red card on Rodrigo Lopez (58’) seemed like the end. Playing a man down is never good, but against a squad that has a one goal lead midway through the second half; well, that would really take something. SRFC would fight on for some time without equalizing. Indeed, things did not look good.

Perseverance paid off late, however, as Belmar proved why you never give up. Weaving in and out fiercely and streaking up the middle, Belmar appeared to score the equalizer. At last, the bear had awoken. Due to a post-strike redirect, the goal was later credited to Dariusz Formella (80’) whose energy, despite playing with a yellow card earned early in the second half (48’), along with Belmar’s, completely changed the match.

With all things equal on the pitch, and the momentum shifted in the home team’s favor, SRFC saw their chance. Just a few minutes later, Villyan Bijev worked his magic and found the net (87’). Republic had finally taken the lead.

For the remaining 3 minutes, as well as an additional 5 minutes of stoppage time, the boys in red never stopped fighting. They stuck with the aggressive style they had adjusted to and kept working to score rather than fall back into a defensive posture. That strategy proved correct, and Sacramento won the match 2-1. They earned 3 points that kept them tied with Reno (24 points), but still one place back in the group standings.

With six straight wins, tying a club record set during the inaugural 2014 season when they won the league championship, Sacramento (7-1-3; 24 pts) will have its chance to claim the lead in USL Group A when the club hosts Reno 1868 FC on Saturday, September 12 at Papa Murphy’s Park. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30pm Pacific. It will be broadcast live on KQCA My58, Estrella TV, and through ESPN+.

Note: due to the red card, Rodrigo Lopez will not be available to compete on Saturday.

Ahsan Awan has been covering sports for over a decade, and has been covering professional soccer, and Sacramento Republic FC, since their debut in 2014. All images taken by Ahsan Awan for American Presswire and ©2020 American Presswire. He can be found on Twitter as @quackarazzi and on Instagram as @quackarazzi.


Boys in Red Win Again

SACRAMENTO – Last week it was extreme heat. This time it was extreme smoke. The character-building exercise in the capital city continues as Republic FC once again faced a uniquely challenging circumstance that had the potential to affect the quality of performance and the outcome on the pitch. This time, however, it was not an exercise of perseverance in high temperature, but rather one of fierce competitors blazing trails through smoke on a mission to win.

Sacramento took to the pitch on the 3-match win streak. Portland, on the other hand, entered on a 6-match losing streak. Once the typical back and forth was done, both clubs stepped up the aggressiveness of play, but it was Portland that landed on the scoreboard first. Jorge Gonzalez found the back of net (23’) and celebrated with a run, roar and slide worthy of full house witness.

From there on, the boys in red struggled to generate opportunities in the box. Portland’s amazing center back, Mamadou Danso, absolutely dominated the area in front of the goal. Getting beyond him was difficult. His imposing size and athleticism could only be beaten with speed and precision. Throughout the remainder of the first half, Sacramento could not come up with an answer.

It was not until the 60th minute that the boys in red equalized on a goal by Drew Skundrich off an assist by Ashkanov Apollon. Continuing the trend of unselfish play and excellent communication, the pair worked together to find the back of the net. The moment served as a wakeup call for a squad that some think could make a decent playoff run.

That spark quickly led to another Republic goal, this time by Cameron Iwasa (69’). This was Iwasa’s 51st USL goal, continuing where he left off the previous week, and giving Sacramento the lead.

Minutes later, Sacramento substituted Sam Werner for Villyan Bijev, and the remainder of the match brimmed with hope that Werner would fulfill on his high energy quest for the net that was so powerfully apparent just one week ago. Unfortunately, despite four minutes of stoppage time, the quest would extend into the future.

Republic finished the match victorious, 2-1 over Portland Timbers 2, notching their fourth win of the season (5-1-3) to remain tied with Reno at 18 points, though second in the Group A standings. The club travels to Portland to play Timbers 2 again on Saturday, September 2 at Providence Park. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30pm Pacific. It will be broadcast live on KQCA My58, Estrella TV, and through ESPN+.

Ahsan Awan has been covering sports for over a decade, and has been covering professional soccer, and Sacramento Republic FC, since their debut in 2014. All images taken by Ahsan Awan for American Presswire and ©2020 American Presswire. He can be found on Twitter as @quackarazzi and on Instagram as @quackarazzi.


Defying Adversity, Sacramento Wins

SACRAMENTO – Adversity appears in many forms. They say the perseverance through it builds character. For Republic FC, a mid-August rematch against a Tacoma Defiance club that stormed back to tie their last meeting at 3-3 on the 13th of July seemed like the perfect opportunity to rise to the occasion.

Recall, however, that we remain deep in the throes of an uncontrolled global pandemic. Coronavirus safety protocols remain in place. Dry conditions have caused a statewide drought to continue; still, the pitch is adequately watered. Unfortunately, The August 15th rematch between these clubs had an added adverse factor – extreme heat! Temperatures were as high as 110 F throughout the day, and only dropped to 104 F at kickoff. Sundown brought little relief. When the match ended, it was still 100 F!

Apart from the heat and the rematch drama, this match was special because it marked the 100th USL start for Republic FC’s Cameron Iwasa. He entered with 49 career goals and was looking for his 50th score. More on that later. Once play began, the boys in red wasted no time notching their first score. Dariusz Formella found the back of the net early in the 14th minute. He went on to notch another goal in the 41st minute, securing his second brace of the season, both against Tacoma.

Shortly before Formella’s second goal, however, Cameron Iwasa got his 50th career goal (33’) thanks to a brilliantly unselfish pass from Villyan Bijev who got a much-deserved assist for his effort.

Heading into halftime up 3-0, Republic FC appeared unfazed by the unfortunate loss of keeper Adam Grinwis to a season-ending ACL tear. Whether Sacramento will add another keeper to the roster remains unknown, but backup keeper Rafael Diaz did an excellent job and is securely in the starting XI.

Early in the second half, Tacoma would finally make a mark on the scoreboard due to a goal by Sam Rogers (50’), but that’s all they could muster. Sacramento’s backline would hold strong for the rest of the match, securing 3 points for their effort and remaining atop the group standings.

It must also be noted that Rodrigo Lopez had another all-star-worthy performance, and Sam Werner made several strong advances toward the goal. He did not score, but he very well may have given even one more chance before the final whistle. FT Sacramento Republic FC 3 – 1 Tacoma Defiance.

Sacramento hosts Portland Timbers 2 on Saturday, August 22 at Papa Murphy’s Park. Kickoff is scheduled for 8pm Pacific. It will be broadcast live on KQCA My58, Estrella TV, and through ESPN+. Adding to the adversity this week will be significant smoke pollution from the deadly fires burning throughout the region.

Given all the adversity facing the community and the region, it is fair to say Republic FC has incredible depth of character. In fact, Rodrigo Lopez has come forward to offer his assistance to people in need. This remarkable showing of generosity underscores what fans have come to know and expect from this club. They truly are Sacramento proud, and they truly are an indomitable force for good.

One final note: American Presswire is no stranger to adversity during this time. We are deeply saddened to report the tragic loss of brilliant photographer Jerry Imboden. Jerry covered the San Joe Earthquakes, Stanford University football, and NCAA Pacific-12 Conference post-season bowl games. Jerry will be missed, and we salute his many lifetime accomplishments behind the lens and in all areas of life.

Additionally, photographer Tom Corno, who covers the Seattle Sounders, was in a serious accident and is recovering at home, and photographer Jamie Castaneda (MLS and Australian A-League) was also in a serious accident and remains hospitalized. We wish them both speedy recoveries.

Ahsan Awan has been covering sports for over a decade, and has been covering professional soccer, and Sacramento Republic FC, since their debut in 2014. All images taken by Ahsan Awan for American Presswire and ©2020 American Presswire. He can be found on Twitter as @quackarazzi and on Instagram as @quackarazzi.


3 Matches in 10 Days - Republic FC Returns to the Pitch Tonight

SACRAMENTO – Three matches in ten days. There was an amazing victory over Reno 1868 on July 19. Republic FC secured a 1-0 victory on a near walk-off (90’) penalty kick taken by Cameron Iwasa. Of course, that was just one of three stories that night. The other two were the historic debut of 15-year-old homegrown Rafa Jauregui, and the lengthy amount of playing time for several key members of the starting XI. More on that later.

Fast forward six days. On July 25, Republic traveled to Los Angeles to face LA Galaxy II. On that night, the result was the opposite. Sacramento fell 0-1 on a late (72’) goal by LA’s Augustine Williams. Republic FC simply could not equalize due to a seemingly impenetrable LA backline.

That brings us to today, July 29. Today is the third match in 10 days for Republic FC. The opponent: undefeated Orange County SC, who happens to be coming off an exciting 1-0 (20’) victory over Phoenix Rising FC thanks to OCSC forward Sean “Ugo” Okoli.

Sacramento and Orange County both enter today’s match with 5 points in the USL standings. Their season records may not appear very different. Sacramento’s record is 1-1-2, and Orange County’s record is 1-0-2. However, Sacramento sits atop USL Championship Group A, a competitive group comprised of Reno 1868, Seattle Sounders II and the Portland Timbers II.

In contrast, Orange County sits in fourth place in USL Championship Group B. That group is led by San Diego Loyal with 10 points, LA Galaxy II with 9 points, and Phoenix Rising with 7 points. The only team below then is Las Vegas. Perhaps Group B is more competitive – they certainly have one more club – but the difference in total points suggests the club may be vulnerable. Despite the presence of Okoli, a fast, powerful and dangerous forward talent, the club recently made history by loaning perhaps their best emerging player, 18-year-old midfielder Bryang Kayo, to VfL Wolfsburg of Germany’s Bundesliga.

Make no mistake, Orange County is no pushover. The club formed a strategic partnership with Rangers FC of the Scottish Premier League. Daniel Finlayson, Matthew Shiels, and Cammy Palmer came across from the UK as part of the deal. They’re young, but the club has senior leadership from players like Denmark’s Thomas Enevoldsen who played in Sacramento last year, Darwin Jones who spent a number of years with the Seattle Sounders organization, Kevin Coleman who spent time with SpVgg Bayreuth of Germany’s Bundesliga, and Diego Lopez who spent time with the Atlanta United organization. All four present difficulties for Sacramento. Add Ugo, and that makes five. The rest of the roster is short of neither talent nor pedigree, so expect a fair challenge for sure.

Republic is no slouch when it comes to talent though. Rodrigo Lopez has returned to Sacramento after spending time in Mexico’s Liga MX, Dariusz Formella spent the past seven years in Poland’s first division and received USL honors after his strong performance in Sacramento’s 3-3 draw versus the Tacoma Defiance just two weeks ago. Everyone knows Villyan Bijev who has long history in Europe and came from the Liverpool FC organization. The rest of the roster bios are noteworthy, and there is no doubt Sacramento can compete.

However, it is worth mentioning once again that this is the third match in 10 days. Circling back to one of the leading stories over the past 10 days, there may be some valid concern regarding fatigue. Head Coach Mark Briggs must rely on the depth of talent more for rest and recovery to be effective. It is always a challenge when there is not much time between matches, and the global coronavirus pandemic certainly has not helped matters. USL Championship is fiercely competitive, and clubs that normally rely heavily on their starting XI are certainly challenged by the risk of cycling lesser experienced players into starting roles when there is so much parity within and across divisions and groups. Nevertheless, it is likely not wise to seek 70 or more minutes from the first team starting XI every few days.

Expect a crowd on the levee once again, perhaps growing in size as more supporters rally to provide 12th man support even from a distance. Every bit of rally energy helps when you are on near-tournament play schedules. A win is essential for both clubs tonight. Sacramento needs three points to remain atop Group A. Orange County needs 3 points to return to relevant striking distance near the top of Group B. Kickoff is scheduled for 8pm Pacific at Papa Murphy’s Park. It will be broadcast live on KQCA My58, Estrella TV, and through ESPN+.

Ahsan Awan has been covering sports for over a decade, and has been covering professional soccer, and Sacramento Republic FC, since their debut in 2014. All images taken by Ahsan Awan for American Presswire and ©2020 American Presswire. He can be found on Twitter as @quackarazzi and on Instagram as @quackarazzi.