Sacramento Republic FC return to Bonney Field this week after the soccer gods graced the team with a 2-0 shutout against LA Galaxy II. Scoreless in four straight matches, it seemed it would take an act of god to help the Republic find the back of the net. All prayers were answered when defender Emrah Klimenta's glorious free kick ended the scoring drought. The Republic faithful were also treated to the team's second run-of-play goal this season from forward Harry Williams to secure the team's third shutout win of 2016.
Although the glory went to the Republic last Saturday, this time around the team will face a Seattle Sounders FC 2 team that will be hungry for their second win of the season. This match has all the makings of a trap game and the Republic will need to focus on the following keys to success:
The Republic Must Score, and Score Early
It can't be overstated enough. The Republic must continue to score, especially in the first half. It's no secret that the Republic's strength lies in its strong defense. When the Republic score early it puts pressure on the opposition to become more aggressive and try to break through that defense, which in turn creates opportunities for a Republic counter attack. The Republic are great at keeping possession and if they can add an opportunistic counter attack to their arsenal, they could become deadly. But it all starts with scoring in the first half.
Coach Buckle has played around with the starting line-up this season to find the right combination up top. He seems to have found it with Harry Williams and Thomas Stewart who worked together well last week. Williams and Stewart should get the start this week again to establish some consistency and chemistry. Harry Williams gives the Republic their best chance at an early goal with his high-energy style of play and accurate shot placement.
The Midfield Needs to Create More Chances
There is no doubt that the midfield was the Republic's strength for the past two seasons, but it has now become a scoring liability due to the departure of quality veterans and leaders such as Ivan Mirković and Rodrigo Lopez. The midfield this season does have its strengths, particularly J.J Koval, who has a high defensive IQ which has clearly helped the Republic become the best defensive team in the USL. However, despite excelling on defense the midfield has been woefully inadequate so far on offense.
The Republic midfield needs to create space and prevent turnovers. The midfield have failed to push up to the box this season, which could be a factor in the lack of scoring. In that past, Rodrigo Lopez was excellent at finding the open space on top of an opponent's box to make a quick strike at goal or a quick pass to a charging forward. Octavio Guzman and Danny Barrera will need to be aggressive and mistake free in order to contribute on offense.
The Defense Must Remain Strong
The best defense in the USL must continue to maintain their form. This is not the time to relax and take the Sounders 2 lightly. Center backs Chris Christian and Derek Foran will need to maintain their great play and get the ball away from danger as fast as possible. Goalkeeper Dominik Jakubek will need to come away with another clean sheet to give the Republic any chance just in case the offense reverts back to their old ways.
Shine on you Crazy Diamonds
James Kiffe and Emrah Klimenta will just need to continue to do what they do.
Are there other keys to success the Republic must focus on for a victory? Let us know in the comments below.