Battery, Red Bulls II share the points in entertaining draw

The Charleston Battery and New York Red Bulls II ended all square after 90 minutes of a back and forth, open game on Saturday night.

The first half was much a war of attrition, with both teams testing the other. By many accounts, New York had the better possession, while the Battery had the better chances.

However, it was the Red Bulls who would have the first chance. Odisnel Cooper was forced into a point blank save from a corner in the 21st minute, which was headed for the top corner but for the ‘Keeper’s intervention after a Red Bulls player was the only man to meet the set piece.

The scoring was opened as the first half drew to a close after Dane Kelly used his strength to beat Andrew Jean-Baptiste, finding Houston Dynamo loanee Memo Rodriguez at the top of the box, whose shot seemingly took a deflection and beat Rafael Diaz in the Red Bulls goal.

After the half-time break, the Red Bulls came out with a plan to make the most of the possession they’d had in the first half.

It didn’t take all that long for NYRBII to threaten, getting an indirect free kick inside the box for an illegal backpass just five minutes into the first half.

Whilst it hit the wall and was eventually cleared, the pressure didn’t stop there. The Battery defense were being pushed farther and farther back by the Red Bulls’ pressure, and it invited a shot from long range, which Odisnel Cooper had to tip over the bar acrobatically to keep the scores level.

The Battery would counter well in the 63rd, with Quinton Griffith playing an excellent early ball looking for second half sub Ricky Garbanzo, which failed to find its target but fell to Dane Kelly, who hit the post, and Sebastien Turiere skied his shot from just outside the box.

And the Red Bulls would make them pay for the miss when a free kick was played into the box, and Anatole Abang rose at the near post to level the scoring in the 68th minute.

The goal seemed inevitable as NYRBII had come out from half time the much better side, and were finally rewarded for their efforts.

With 15 minutes to go, the Battery had a chance to go back in front when a fast counter led to a break away from Ricky Garbanzo, who tore away from inside his own half, getting the ball and beating every defender for pace before his final touch let him down and Rafael Diaz was able to collect.

Garbanzo went down from the ensuing contact, but center official Daniel Fitzgerald decided the keeper won the ball cleanly.

With just over six minutes to go in the match, the Red Bulls looked to have had a winner after jumping first to a header and beating Cooper in the Battery goal, only to have the ball cleared off the line.

The Red Bulls then had a chance off the counter in stoppage time, with goalscorer Abang through on goal after beating his man by holding off a challenge, but Abang’s finish was just wide of the post.

It was the Battery who had the final chance of the evening, when Justin Portillo’s shot from just outside the box was saved only to find Ricky Garbanzo, but his rebound hit the outside of the post just before the final whistle blew.

The Battery were without captain Jarad van Schaik in midfield as well as Navion Boyd, the former training during the week but was left out of the side as a precaution due to a knee problem. Boyd injured his ankle in training, and did not train.

The match ended as an entertaining 1-1 draw. The Battery travel to Wilmington to take on the Hammerheads on Sunday, April 26th, while the Red Bulls next return home on Wednesday April 22nd against the Richmond Kickers.

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Sacramento Republic Dominate T2 in Front of Sellout Crowd

The Bonney Field expansion is finally done and Sacramento Republic FC celebrated by treating the sellout crowd of 11,242 fans to a truly dominant 3-0 win over Portland Timbers 2. The performance was one of the best overall ones I have ever seen from the team, who truly looked the part of reigning USL Champions. Goals from Rodrigo Lopez, Mickey Daly, and rookie Zev Taublieb highlighted Saturday’s action.

The Lineup

The starting XI for Sacramento’s rematch against T2 was: Patrick McLain; James Kiffe, Mickey Daly, Nemanja Vukovic, Emrah Klimenta; Rodrigo Lopez, Ivan Mirkovic, Octavio Guzman, Max Alvarez; Justin Braun and David Estrada.

The first notable thing about Saturday’s starting XI was the return of both Nemanja Vukovic and Max Alvarez. Although they had each made at least one prior appearance, this was the first start for each of them. With their return, Sacramento was able to put out arguably their preferred starting XI for the first time this season. An argument could be made that a real preferred XI would include Tommy Stewart in place for Estrada, but there is no way to know for certain. What is certain, is that Estrada has made concrete contributions to the team so far, with three assists and a goal to his name after just six games.

On the bench for the home team were: Domimik Jakubek, Alfonso Motagalvan, Cameron Iwasa, Zev Taublieb, Joaquin Rivas, Gabe Gonzalez, and Augistin Cazarez.

The Match

The Republic did not waste too much time in getting things going, with Rodrigo Lopez opening the scoring in the thirteenth minute with some help from Harrison Delbridge’s shin.

T2 did one of the worst things to possibly do at Bonney Field during the run up to the goal. They gave Rodrigo Lopez space in which to work inside Zone 10 and he punished them with a little help from a former teammate.

Lopez helped to double the Republic’s lead in the 37th minute when his free kick service found center back Mickey Daly for a free header in the box. Daly burned two former teammates on the play, getting free from Harrison Delbridge and powering his header past Jake Gleeson.

Republic goalkeeper Patrick McLain helped to preserve the lead, making all of his three saves of the match in the first half, and the teams went into the break with Sacramento leading 2-0.

While the second half was not as goal-heavy as the first, it was the half that Sacramento truly showed their dominance. While USL unfortunately does not keep possession stats, it is not that far of a stretch to say that the Republic had the ball about 70 to 75  percent of the time in the second half. It seemed as though Portland could barely get onto the ball for any extended period of time.

The lone goal of the second half, and the one that put the final nail in T2’s coffin, was rookie Zev Taublieb’s first professional goal, in the 82nd minute. Taublieb was the beneficiary of a nice flowing move by the home side, with a buildup of 11 passes with 8 different players touching the ball.The final sequence was put together by Lopez, Kiffe, and Estrada.

Lopez found Kiffe streaking up the left wing and the fullback put in a first time cross for Estrada, whose finish was well saved by Gleeson. But Taublieb was waiting in the wings and pounced on the rebound.

The rookie’s goal was the last of the match and the Republic spent the last ten or so minutes of the match comfortably protecting both their three goals and their three points. Those points also vaulted them to first place in the USL Western Conference, with Arizona United and Seattle Sounders 2 both just three points behind in a tie for second place.

Man of the Match

While Zev Taublieb should absolutely get recognition for his first professional goal and Patrick McLain showed well the relatively few times he was called upon, neither turned in Man of the Match type performances. That distinction goes, once again, to Rodrigo Lopez, who once again recorded a goal and an assist.

At this point it might behoove USL to just write his name in for the Team of the Week in pen to save themselves the trouble of adding it again every week. I do not exaggerate when I say that Sacramento Republic fans are lucky to be able to see Lopez ply his trade in the capital, because he absolutely belongs at a higher level.

What’s Next

Next up for the Republic is yet another home game, this time against Orange County Blues FC. Sacramento fans may remember the Blues best from the 6-1 drubbing that the Republic gave them near the end of the 2014 season. However, with a brand new coach and coming off a 3-0 win over formerly-undefeated Arizona United, these Blues look to be made of sterner stuff than the 2014 version.

The match kicks off at 7:30 on Friday, April 24 and as always, it will be streamed live on the Sacramento Republic YouTube page.

For more Sacramento Republic coverage, including further thoughts on the win over T2 and clips from post-match interviews with Zev Taublieb, Mickey Daly, and Patrick McLain, make sure to tune into Beeman’s Republic, the only podcast dedicated entirely to Sacramento Republic coverage.