As difficult as it is to see the Republic head away from Bonney Field right after the home opener victory over Arizona United, it must be done. It will be three weeks until the Republic have another USL contest at home, and they have two away games to deal with before the that time comes. This Sunday's game against Vancouver Whitecaps 2 is the first of a two away game stretch, with the other coming next Sunday against Portland Timbers 2.
Here are some things to think about heading into tomorrow's match against Whitecaps FC 2.
1. Strong defense will get a test
The Republic's defense has been remarkably strong through the first two games of the season, posting shutouts in both matches and allowing just a single shot on goal for Dominik Jakubek to deal with. Defense has always been a strong spot for Sacramento - they conceded the fewest goals in the Western Conference during regular season play last year - and the new center back tandem of Derek Foran and Chris Christian seem to be doing well so far.
However, the strength of the team's defense is likely to face its sternest test this Sunday. Whitecaps 2 look to be stronger than Seattle Sounders 2, who are an offensively weak team and have not scored a single goal in three matches. They will also likely be more threatening than Arizona United, who did not intensely pressure the Republic defense in large part because they sat back and focused on not conceding, as many teams who come to Bonney Field do.
Whitecaps 2, on the other hand, have scored four goals in two games and have the second highest goal differential (+3) in all of USL. They will also be at home and therefore more likely to go on the attack. Forwards Kyle Grieg and Daniel Haber are the two main offensive weapons for Whitecaps 2, each with two goals and with a grand total of eight shots on goal between them. The Republic will have to deal with that pair if they are going to walk away from UBC Thunderbird Stadium with their shutout streak intact.
2. Mackenzie Pridham returns
This Sunday's match will not be Mackenzie Pridham's first visit to UBC Thunderbird Stadium. He actually spent all of the 2015 season with Whitecaps 2 and appeared in 20 matches during that time, including two against the Republic.
Pridham, who delighted and endeared himself to Republic fans in preseason, has yet to log any regular season minutes with his new team. His return to Vancouver would be the perfect opportunity to get his first minutes and, with any luck, his first goal of the season.
In order to get those minutes, however, he will have to compete not only with starters like Thomas Stewart and Mark Sherrod (if he's around this week), but also with Sacramento native Cameron Iwasa. Iwasa, now in his second year as a professional, was chosen over Pridham as a late substitute in last week's match and ended up making a huge impact by scoring the winning goal. Of course, that goal does not mean that Pridham is guaranteed to be relegated to the bench this weekend. Buckle has spoken highly of Pridham in the past and certainly views him and his tendency to make life difficult for opposition center backs in a positive light.
If the situation calls for him, it is likely that Pridham will have his name called this weekend. If that does end up happening, we can hope that he will make the most of the opportunity to show Whitecaps 2 and the Republic how dangerous a goalscorer he can be.
3. We've had one, yes, but what about second goal?
As it stands right now, the Republic have scored two goals in two games and only one has come from the run of play. Now don't get me wrong, I know a one goal win counts just as much as a win in which a team scores multiple goals. And I know that one goal is better than no goals, especially considering the team's scoring woes at the end of last season.
That being said, I'm a little greedy and I would like to see more goals out of this Republic team on Sunday. The fact that it is coming in an away game against a Whitecaps 2 team that has only conceded a single goal makes things a bit more difficult, sure. But the heart wants what it wants, and my heart wants to see Sacramento Republic put up a multi-goal game sooner rather than later.
Predicted Lineup: Dominik Jakubek; James Kiffe, Chris Christian, Derek Foran, Emrah Klimenta; Chase Minter, JJ Koval, Agustin Cazarez, Danny Barrera; Thomas Stewart, Mark Sherrod.
Predicted Scoreline: Sacramento Republic 1-1 Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2
What do you think is interesting about Sunday's matchup? Do you have a different preferred starting XI in mind? Let us know in the comments below.