Today's preseason friendly against Fresno Fuego at Chukchansi Park is the first of a three game road trip that Sacramento Republic have planned for this weekend. They will also be facing UC Santa Barbara and Ventura County Fusion on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.
Tonight's match will be the third time that Sacramento and Fresno have faced off against one another in the past three years. It will also be an opportunity for the Republic to ensure that their unbeaten streak against the Fuego extends to a perfect three out of three.
The first time that the two teams faced each other was at Consumnes River College in the third round of the 2014 US Open Cup. It was, to be blunt, a game that Fresno fans might like to forget. The Republic walloped the Fuego 6-0, with goals from Nemanja Vuković , Justin Braun, Thomas Stewart, Rodrigo Lopez, Emrah Klimenta, and Steven Evans. The highlights for that match are embedded down below if you want to watch them (and you know you do.)
Last season the two teams met in preseason but the result was not nearly as lopsided, with Fresno earning a 2-2 draw at home. Both Republic goals were scored by Richie Cardozo, an Australian trialist who was fairly prolific in the 2015 preseason but did not end up with a contract.
Going into today's match, things are a bit different for the Republic than they have been in the past two meetings. The team itself is different with a coach and a changed roster. This is going to be yet another preseason match where building relationships and familiarity among players, as well as improving match fitness and rounding into form ahead of the season, is going to be paramount.
The dynamic along the back line changed on Friday with the Republic's announcement that they signed 19 year old Mexican center back Carlos Rodriguez. Although it is almost certainly a move mostly for depth and for the future, the addition of Rodriguez brings the total number of center backs to four, giving the Republic much more flexibility and depth at a spot that had traditionally been a bit thin.
However, with that depth comes the need to get all the players up to speed, which means that although Chris Christian and Mike da Fonte seem to be the de-facto starters at the moment, Derek Foran and the newcomer Rodriguez will be getting some time in the final few preseason matches. In fact, I would not be surprised if the youngster gets a chance to show his talents during these next few matches, whether against Fresno or another of the Republic's upcoming opponents.
Another area where I am looking to see further relationship development is with the forwards, where many personnel changes have happened. Things have been looking pretty good for the Republic so far this preseason, with Thomas Stewart finding the net a few times and newcomers Mackenzie Pridham and Harry Williams showing the potential to be good goalscorers. I want to see the progress that the Republic have made on the offensive side of the game continue, with the forwards continuing to get on the end of chances.
If everything goes right, hopefully we will be seeing a scoreline closer to 2014 than 2015 tonight.
What are you looking for out of tonight's game? Let us know in the comments below.