Sacramento Republic FC saw their 2016 season end prematurely on Saturday with a loss in penalty kicks to Orange County Blues in the first round of the playoffs. The match was scoreless through 90 minutes and two periods of extra time, though the visitors looked like the better team for the majority of the time.
Neither team came out of the gate in dominating form, but OC Blues were the more aggressive of the two for the first 10 minutes, despite not giving Republic goalkeeper Evan Newton much to worry about.
Republic’s first threatening foray forward into the OC Blues defensive third came in the seventh minute when James Kiffe brought down a long ball with a great first touch and sent a ball into the box intended for Harry Williams. Neither Williams or any other Republic striker was able to get on the end of the service.
OC Blues had a threatening moment in the 25th minute off a Didier Crettenand free kick. The Swiss midfielder’s service was good, but the truly
Republic nearly conceded once again in the 27th minute when a miscommunication between Newton and center back Chris Christian set up OC Blues striker Ajekwa for a shot on a mostly empty goal. Christian moved into the goalmouth and came up huge to block the shot, but set up the Blues for a second chance, which careened off the crossbar and out.
Although the visitors were the more aggressive team in the initial part of the first half, the tide turned 30 minutes in and the home team put the Blues under pressure.
Republic midfielder Matt LaGrassa, who had been putting in a good defensive shift through the first 30 minutes, hit a rocket of a shot that forced the OCB goalkeeper to make a quality save.
Just one minute later, Cameron Iwasa got a chance of his own, but his header off of Elliott Hord’s cross was off target.
Iwasa had another chance in the 40th minute, but his header off a Danny Barrera corner kick was unable to make it through the crowded box and into the net.
Despite the Republic ratcheting up the pressure for the last 15 minutes, they were unable to convert any of their chances and the half ended with the teams tied at 0-0.
The Story at Halftime
Sacramento Republic FC: 6 Shots, 1 Shot on Goal, 5 Fouls, 4 Corners, 1 Offside
Orange County Blues: 4 Shots, 0 Shots on goal, 10 Fouls, 1 Corner, 2 Offside
The second half started with the two teams fairly evenly matched, but it was the Blues that had the first dangerous opportunity in the 52nd minute.
OC Blues dangerman, Trevin Caesar, beat the Republic’s offside trap to get in behind the defense with only Evan Newton to beat.
Fortunately for the home team, Newton handled the situation well, making himself big and blocking Caesar’s shot.
Paul Buckle made his first substitution of the match in the 62nd minute, bringing on JJ Koval for Wilson Kneeshaw, who made his first ever Republic start.
Buckle went to his bench once again in the 73rd minute, bringing on Carlton Cole for Harry Williams in an effort to find a way to open the scoring.
Orange County Blues, who had the better scoring opportunities in the first half, had the best scoring chance of the match in the 75th minute. The Republic were incredibly fortunate not to concede
In an effort to consolidate the Republic defense and free up the fullbacks, Buckle brought on center back Carlos Rodriguez for midfielder Matt LaGrassa. The substitution moved the Republic from a 4-4-1-1 to a 5-3-2 formation that gave James Kiffe and Elliott Hord more freedom to go forward and influence the attack.
Cameron Iwasa had a chance to put the Republic on the board in the 86th minute, but while his shot from the top of the box was a hard one, it went straight to the OCB goalkeeper.
Despite Iwasa’s scoring opportunity, the final 15 minutes of the second half were controlled almost entirely by Orange County Blues. Not only were the visitors able to prevent any particularly dangerous attacks from the Republic, but they were nearly constantly putting pressure on Newton and the Republic goal.
Neither team was able to break out and score before the end of the second half, meaning that the game would be decided in either extra minute or penalty kicks.
As might be expected, extra time kicked off with decidedly less intensity than was on display through the first 90 minutes.
Paul Buckle went to his bench once again, 10 minutes into extra time, bringing on Octavio Guzman for Jeremy Hall, who looked to be tiring.
The first 15 minutes of extra time finished with neither team having particularly good scoring opportunities.
Republic had a fairly good attacking move at the beginning of the second 15 minutes of extra time, but Daniel Trickett-Smith’s cross was not controlled well by Cameron Iwasa.
Octavio Guzman had another chance in the 110th minute, but his shot went way over the crossbar for a Blues goal kick.
A 120th minute free kick was Republic’s final opportunity to take the lead in extra time, but Elliott Hord’s service did not find anyone in Old Glory Red.
With that failed free kick, the game headed to one of the most stressful events in sports: the penalty shootout.
The results of the shootout were as follows:
(SRFC) Daniell Trickett-Smith: Scored
(OCB) Meeus: Scored
(SRFC) Cameron Iwasa: Scored
(OCB) Chaplow: Scored
(SRFC) JJ Koval: Saved by keeper
(OCB) Stenovic: Scored
(SRFC) Octavio Guzman: Scored
(OCB) Barouch: Scored
(SRFC) Carlton Cole: Scored
(OCB) Didier Crettenand: Scored
Crettenand’s penalty won the shootout for the Blues, putting forth a major upset as the bottom seed in the Western Conference beat the top seed at home.
With the win, OC Blues now move on to face Swope Park Rangers next week.
Sacramento Republic, on the other hand, are now through with their 2016 season. For the second time in two years, they crashed out of the playoffs in the first round to a Southern California team.
What do you think about the result of tonight’s game? Disappointed that the Republic got knocked out so early? Extremely disappointed? Incredibly disappointed? Sound off in the comments below!