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.


Sac Is Back! Roro, SRFC Return

SACRAMENTO - Perfect warm weather and a classic cloud-free sky coupled with a light breeze and a colorful sunset; but for the coronavirus pandemic, it would have been beautiful rather than spooky. Professional sports returned to the Golden State on Monday night in an empty house. No fans were allowed into Papa Murphy's Park for Sacramento Republic FC's USL Championship 2020 season restart versus the Tacoma (WA) Defiance. A group of brave die-hard supporters dubbed the Levee Patrol set up camp from a distance on top of the levee wall and could be seen from the pitch. No matter how far away they were, their presence made a difference. The home team may not have won, but a courageous and aggressive 3-3 draw after being sidelined for four months is impressive.

The legendary Rodrigo Lopez returned to Sacramento's starting XI for the first time since 2015. He was joined by fellow midfielder Cameron Iwasa, a familiar face and veteran roster anchor. Unfortunately, Tacoma would find the back of the net first on a goal by Alec Diaz that came in the first minute off an assist by Danny Reynolds. Unfazed, Sacramento would equalize only seven minutes later thanks to a penalty kick taken by Dariusz Formella.

Sacramento would go on to take the lead in the twenty-third minute on a brilliant goal by Tomas Hilliard-Arce made possible by an assist from none other than Rodrigo Lopez.  From there, they smelled blood. The club would extend their lead to 3-1 on a goal by Dariusz Formella that came off an assist by Jordan McCrary. Formella's goal was clean and strong as he rushed in almost completely unchallenged from the right side of the box striking a clean left footer that exploded off the inside edge of his boot with ferocious velocity.

The club was on fire, but unfortunately it was all downhill from there. Halftime wound come and go, and as frequently happens at the break, the wind left the sails. Tacoma would go on to score again and narrow the gap to a single goal. Sacramento would substitute Jaime Villareal for Andrew Wheeler-Omiunu, and the always exciting Villyan Bijev came on for Lopez, both in the sixty-third minute. However, that did't turn things around. Sacramento brought in Kharlton Belmar for Iwasa just ten minutes later. The club also entered Dekel Keinan for McCrary and Sam Werner for Formella, thus opting for what appeared to be a more defensive posture perhaps to preserve a 3-2 victory.

Sadly, that was not to be. Tacoma equalized in the eighty-first minute as Ray Serrano brought the score to 3-3. The confluence of disbelief and altered chemistry left Sacramento in desperation from there on. Despite a valiant effort to regain the lead, the clock expired. One might wonder what might have been had the 12th man legion that is the Tower Bridge Battalion been in the house. A distant drum simply wasn't enough.

It's worth noting, however, that it wasn't disappointing from the edge. It was great to see the club return to action, and while it wasn't the result they wanted, a 3-3 tie tends to show that this group is hungry and aggressive. Hopefully the world works in ways that allow fans to witness the energy and excitement these men bring to the game. Sacramento Republic FC returns to the pitch Sunday, July 19 at 6 p.m. to host Reno 1868 FC. The match will be broadcast live on ESPN2.

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.