Sacramento Republic FC vs Harrisburg City Islanders Match Preview
On December 3, 2012 USL PRO awarded Warren Smith and Sacramento Professional Soccer LLC an expansion team for 2014. Last July, Sac Pro Soccer Day revealed to 14,014 fans the name and crest of the expansion team. This Saturday, in a sold-out Hughes Stadium, 20,231 fans will watch their new team in person for the first time in the home opener against the Harrisburg City Islanders. For the fans who have followed the team from day 1 it has been a long wait from the announcement to this game, but it is sure to be worth it.
Another ejection, another loss. Both of Sacramento’s defeats have come in games where they finished a man down, with the winning goals in each match scored after the red card was shown. Against Orange County Blues FC it was Harrison Delbridge who saw red and in last weekend’s loss to Arizona United SC it was Mickey Daly late in the first half.
For much of the first half Sacramento was playing well, keeping control of the ball and generally looking the better team. When Rodrigo Lopez scored in the 27th minute, however, the home side seemed to wake up and the game became much more even. Arizona struck back to tie the game in the 38th minute and had a chance to take the lead from a penalty that was called for the foul that gave Mickey Daly his second yellow card. The penalty was not taken all that well and Republic goalkeeper Dominik Jakubek saved it to keep the game level.
For much of the second half Sacramento was forced to defend as Arizona took the game to them. There were, however, periods where the visitors kept the ball well and played almost as if they had 11 men on the field. But the man advantage proved to be too much for the Republic to overcome, as Jonathan Top scored what proved to be the winner in the 85th minute.
As Jason Robertson (who has written for Reckless Challenge about Arizona United) said two weeks ago,”even in a league like USL PRO, the margin for error is almost non-existent.” United found that out on their opener and Sacramento fans will hope that their team will have taken that to heart for the home opener in the capital.
This Week’s Republic Stories
The biggest news coming out of this week has to be Fridays announcement that the home opener is sold out. The 20,231 capacity Hughes Stadium will be filled to the brim with Republic fans for what should be a night to remember.
Other news includes the announcement of the second San Jose Earthquakes player to be loaned out (finally). Sacramento area native Adam Jahn was announced as the second Quake to join Sacramento, joining Mike Fucito. While this deal will undoubtedly prove to be a positive for Jahn, who has not seen too much of the field under current coach Mark Watson, it may result in fewer minutes for Thomas Stewart or Dakota Collins. Both Stewart and Collins have been playing more frequently with the injuries to Justin Braun and Fucito, but with the addition of Jahn one of them may see their opportunities for minutes shrink.
Another piece of news which may not have been noticed is Warren Smith dropping the news that Justin Braun seems to still be injured and is not looking like he will play. Last week I was told that it was likely that Braun would be ok to play this weekend, so it seems like something must have changed during the week. Adam Jahn’s return to the Sacramento area came just in time, it seems.
Harrisburg City Islanders sit at the bottom of the USL PRO table with just a single point in three games, with their last game being a 4-1 loss to Orange County Blues FC. While each game that Sacramento has played against the then basement dwellers has ended poorly for the Republic, I see this game going differently. Sacramento will be energized from playing at home in front of a sellout crowd and the Islanders will be playing their second game in three days. My prediction is that the Republic will get three points from their home opener and give the fans a game to remember.
It will be interesting to see how Sacramento can implement their style of play at home, since they have done a fairly good job of taking the game to their opponents while on the road. Look for them to pressure the ball in an effort to force turnovers in dangerous positions and create chances that way. Of course, that is not the only way that Sacramento creates chances. Both of my players to watch for this Saturday are offensive weapons for the home side.
Players to Watch
Rodrigo “RoRo” Lopez- RoRo has been a near constant presence in the center of Sacramento’s midfield this season and his goal last weekend is a strong indicator why. He starts the play by driving toward the Arizona defense, lays off a pass to a teammate, receives a return pass and blasts home his first goal of the season. He has the ability to both create opportunities for his teammates and score a few goals himself.
Max Alvarez- He’s a local player, one of two who joined the team through the open tryouts held earlier this year. He has been playing very well so far this year for the Republic in his position as a wide midfielder. He is both fast and good in one-on-one situations, making him a dangerous player for Sacramento. His game against LA Galaxy II earlier this year was probably his best so far this season. He bagged a secondary assist, his first professional goal, set up a dangerous situation in the Los Dos box that Dakota Collins took advantage of.
Adam Jahn is another player that fans should keep a sharp eye out for, although it is not certain how much he will play this weekend. If he does play, Republic fans will be hoping his brought his finishing boots with him from San Jose.
Will Sacramento Republic FC be able to get three points from their home opener? Tune in at 7:30pm Pacific Time to find out.
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.