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.