Sacramento Republic FC ended their 5 game road trip on a disappointing note against Arizona United SC, suffering their second defeat of the season. Defender — and Reckless Challenge Player of the Week for Week 4 — Mickey Daly earned a second yellow card just before half time (guess who’s not making a repeat appearance as POTW?). This is the second game in which the Republic have had a player sent off, the other being against Orange County Blues FC. Another (not so) fun fact: each of the teams Sacramento has lost to were at the bottom of the table going into the game. Rodrigo Lopez scored the lone goal for Sacramento, while Brandon Swartzendruber and Jonathan Top scored the goals that gave Arizona United its first win of the season.
Sacramento came out strong, moving the ball around well and doing a good job of keeping the ball in the Arizona half. Early on the Republic seemed content to test former San Jose Earthquakes goalkeeper Evan Newton from distance, and the home side’s defense seemed content to allow the visitors to take those speculative efforts. Sacramento put the home team under pressure to try to force mistakes, a strategy which almost paid off with a goal in the 21st minute when Newton played a poor pass out from the back. This play also demonstrates the effectiveness of Sacramento’s pressure, although it does not result in a scoring chance. The pressure applied by the front two for the Republic forces the Arizona defense to clear the ball out of play and returns possession to Sacramento.
Rodrigo Lopez opened the scoring in the 27th minute. He gained possession of the ball near the center circle, drove toward the defense, played a give-and-go with Thomas Stewart and shot past Newton. Lopez had earlier dedicated the game to his great-grandmother who had just passed away and his goal was an opportunity for the team to come together for him, as nearly every player came together both to congratulate and console him.
Lopez’s goal seemed to breathe a bit of life into the home team, with Arizona equalizing in the 38th minute off a deep cross by captain Matt Kassel to Swartzendruber. Republic goalkeeper Dominik Jakubek came out to meet Swartzendruber but stopped short, stranding himself and making his defense scramble to try to cover the goal. While there are definitely some things that Sacramento could have done better on the goal, Kassel’s cross must be recognized as a great pass.
While he did not perform all that well on the first goal, Jakubek did well to block Kassel’s penalty in first half stoppage time after Mickey Daly’s foul in the box which earned him his second yellow. The Republic keeper guessed correctly to keep the game even at one each going into the locker room.
Up a man, Arizona came out in the second half trying to take the game to Sacramento, keeping the ball in the visitor’s half for the first 15 minutes of the second half. After the 68th minute though, the Republic began to control more of the ball and from around the 68th minute to 85th they hardly looked like a team that was down a player. During this stretch Evan Newton came up with some big saves to keep Arizona in the game, including this one.
In the 85th minute Jonathan Top put the home side in the lead, tapping in a headed down ball right around the six yard box. After a cross was sent in the Republic defense all gravitated toward the place in the box where the header was being contested, leaving Top unmarked.
Sacramento Republic Man of the Match: Rodrigo Lopez
He may not have gotten a win like he wanted, but Lopez was the best player on the field for the visitors. He started and finished the play that led to his goal and was generally the most dangerous player for Sacramento.
Now that their team has gone to all the other western USL PRO teams to show off their skills, Republic fans finally get to witness their new team in person next weekend, as they play their home opener against the Harrisburg City Islanders at Hughes Stadium on the campus of Sacramento City College. Justin Braun, who missed the game against Arizona due to a hamstring issue, should also be available. That’s surely good news for Sacramento fans.
Josh Beeman is a Sac State student by day and the Sacramento Republic FC Correspondent for Reckless Challenge by night (and generally any time not in class). He tries to keep his pieces as free from bias as he can but he is only human. Follow him @josh_beeman for bite-sized Republic news.