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.