Sacramento Republic FC are back in the familiar confines of Bonney Field, but face an unfamiliar foe in USL newcomers Rio Grande Valley FC. Saturday’s match will be the first time these two teams have ever faced off against one another and the only time they will play each other in Sacramento this season.
Not only are the Toros new to the league, they are also the first club of their kind in the league. They are not a truly independent team, acting as a development team for MLS’s Houston Dynamo, but neither are they solely an MLS2 team. Rather, they are a hybrid of the two, with the Dynamo running the technical side of the club but not involved in the other aspects. In theory this allows the Dynamo to get the benefits of an MLS 2 team while allowing the Toros front office to concentrate on the business side of things.
Here are some things to keep in mind ahead of tomorrow’s match.
Youth vs. Experience
While they are a hybrid club, for our purposes today, RGVFC is essentially an MLS 2 team. They’ll be stocked with young talent both from inside and outside the Dynamo’s development pipeline, and Head Coach Wilmer Cabrera will have them playing in a fairly similar style to the mothership, just as with most MLS 2s. Since the overall goal of the MLS 2 clubs is to develop players for MLS, in general the players on their rosters are young and loaded with potential, but lacking in experience.
The Republic, on the other hand, have a far more experienced batch of players to work with. While there are some longer-term development projects such as Daniel Trickett-Smith (20 years old), Harry Williams (20), and Carlos Rodrigiez (19), by and large the Republic players are older and more experienced. For instance, the average age of RGVFC’s roster is 21.67 years old, while the average age for the Republic’s roster is 24.73 years old.
Many Republic players are either in or approaching the prime of their careers, while RGVFC’s players are mostly just getting started. This experience gap should work in the Republic’s favor this Saturday.
Good Defense, Ok Offense vs Ok Defense, Good Offense
As our readers are no doubt aware, the Republic are not exactly scoring goals at a record pace. While not the worst offense in the league, they are close to it, averaging exactly one goal per game through their first 12 games. However, that offensive mediocrity has been made less severe by the team’s incredible defensive strength. The Republic have only conceded seven goals this season, an average of 0.58 per game, with quite a few of those being due more to an individual mistake then a collective collapse. Rather than outscore opponents, the Republic puts a premium on not conceding goals.
That is not the case with RGVFC, who tend to have quite a few goals from both sides in their games. Through their 13 matches this season, the Toros have scored 18 goals, an average of 1.38, and conceded 15, an average of 1.15. So while they tend to score more frequently than the Republic, RGVFC also are much more likely to give up a goal.
This has led to them taking part in a number of high-scoring matches. Five of RGV’s 13 matches this season have ended with a combined scoreline of three or more goals, including some close matches like their 3-2 win over San Antonio FC, and some blowouts like their 4-0 loss to Swope Park Rangers and 3-0 win over OKC Energy, both of which came last week.
So while the Republic offense is not what one could call incompetent, especially with the recent increase in goals being scored, it seems that the best strategy for taking away three points tomorrow is to concentrate on keeping a solid defense to keep the RGVFC offense at bay, while taking advantage of their relative defensive frailty to score a goal or two.
Missing Attackers on Both Sides
Something which should help the Republic with execute that strategy is the fact that RGVFC is going to be missing one of their more potent attacking threats. As Carson Merk told us on Thursday, Honduran international Jose Escalante, the team’s co-leading goalscorer with three goals and one assist, was shown a red card last week against OKC and will be unavailable on Saturday.
However, Escalante’s absence does not mean that the Toros attack is dead in the water. RGVFC regular Jose Memo Rodriguez and occasional loan player Rob Lovejoy are also goal scoring threats, sharing the top position with Escalante with three goals each. Rodriguez is definitely going to be with the Toros, but Lovejoy has only played with the team four times and is not a guarantee.
The Republic are in a similar position with Adam Jahn, who we can never be sure will or will not be loaned out. This week it seems as though Jahn will be unavailable, giving the Republic problems of their own when it comes to missing goal scorers.
Of course, the Republic attack will not wither and die without Adam Jahn. But his effectiveness in the air and at holding up the ball helps to bring other players into the game, and now it will be just a bit harder for the offense to get into dangerous positions or create high percentage scoring chances.
The match kicks off at 8pm this Saturday at Bonney Field and will be streamed on YouTube. As usual, you can follow along with us on Twitter @BlurbsIndomita for updates during the match and check back here for a recap after the final whistle.
What is on your mind ahead of tomorrow’s match? Let us know in the comments below.