Once again Sacramento Republic FC faces off against their NorCal rivals, and MLS affiliate, San Jose Earthquakes at Bonney Field on February 20, 2016. Yes, this is only a preseason friendly, but it is still an important match. Over the past two years the matches between these teams have become more intense and have grown into a real rivalry for both the players on the field and the fans in the stands. We take a look back at the history and the past matches of this rivalry and ask some important questions moving forward.
On the surface the Earthquakes have the Republic's number. In two seasons the Republic have clashed with the Earthquakes four times without a win. This Saturday will be the fifth meeting between the two clubs and another opportunity to finally topple the Earthquakes. Here is a summary of the past rounds of what some call the NorCal Derby and others call the Hella Cup.
March 5, 2014
The first match between these two clubs came in the 2014 preseason, only the fourth match ever for the Republic. It was much closer than the 2-0 final would show. Playing on a neutral field at CSU Stanislaus, the Republic held their own for most of the match. Second half subs, most notably Alan Gordon, made the difference for San Jose in the end. The Earthquakes got their first point in the 86th minute off a JJ Koval header, then put the match out of reach with a stoppage time goal by Billy Schuler.
June 11, 2014
The Republic struck first when they met the Earthquakes in the fourth round of the US Open Cup at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco. Justin Braun scored in the 42nd minute to give the team their first ever goal against the Earthquakes. But the Quakes struck back with an equalizer in stoppage time before the half. Cordell Cato added another San Jose goal in the 73rd minute off a Republic deflection to win the match 2-1. With the loss, the Republic were eliminated from their first U.S. Open Cup competition.
February 21, 2015
The second preseason edition of the Hella Cup was the first one held at Bonney Field, and it ended with the Republic's third straight loss. Though this match was closer than the previous two, the Republic failed to score and received 4 yellow cards while the Earthquakes squeaked out a 1-0 win. The rivalry between the two clubs became more heated with hard fouls by both sides.
This match is also notable for what happened off the pitch. The Earthquakes supporters group, the San Jose Ultras, walked out minutes after the start of the match when they were warned by security officials after violating supporter policy rules at Bonney Field.
June 18, 2015
This was the second time the Republic faced the Earthquakes in the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup and the first time as a visitor to Avaya Stadium. Backed by a very vocal and loud Republic traveling supporters group, the Republic scored the first two goals, taking a commanding 2-0 lead. The first goal came in the 6th minute off a Rodrigo Lopez penalty kick. Emrah Klimenta scored the 2nd goal in the 54th minute and the Republic looked to be on their way to their first ever win against the Earthquakes.
Unfortunately for the Republic, they couldn't hold on. Earthquakes forward and superhero Chris Wondolowski scored back-to-back goals in the 74th and 79th minutes to even the score at 2-2. The Republic then lost in penalty kicks and were eliminated from the U.S. Open Cup by the Earthquakes for the second consecutive year.
The Rivalry Continues
The Republic look to break their losing streak against the Earthquakes this Saturday at Bonney in what will most likely be a fiercely contested match. The Republic have been getting closer every match to defeating the Earthquakes, and the players believe that they can come away with a win.
From midfielder Ivan Mirkovich after last week's match against the Colorado Rapids:
"I think we can. We were pretty close to tying [Colorado] and I think if we correct those small mistakes â we have a whole week to work on that â if we correct those small mistakes I think we'll be fine against Earthquakes. I'm looking forward to them. They've owned us for the last four games... it should be fun."
Can Paul Buckle come up with a game plan to finally defeat Sacramento's NorCal nemesis? Will the Republic break their scoreless streak at home? Will the San Jose Ultras stay for the entire match?
Please let us know what you think about this rivalry and the history between the Republic and the Earthquakes in the comments below.