Sacramento Republic FC are back on the road this week to face Arizona United SC at the Peoria Sports Complex in Peoria, Arizona. The Republic currently sit in 2nd place in the Western Conference standings and have a chance to extend their unbeaten streak to eight games.
The Republic will face an Arizona team that fought back to draw Rio Grande Valley FC on the road in a midweek match. Arizona is unbeaten in their past three matches and will look to move into playoff contention with a win this Saturday.
The following keys to success should lead the Republic to victory against Arizona:
Don’t Look Past Arizona
Let’s be honest, Arizona United SC isn’t exactly tearing up the USL. The Firebirds currently have a -4 goal differential and have had trouble defending against the top tier of the Western Conference. Arizona also has had a difficult time scoring and have scored only 12 goals in 13 games, the fewest in the Western Conference.
Despite their obvious shortcomings, Arizona has put together a nice three game unbeaten streak over the past two weeks. Winning impressively against Orange County Blues FC and Saint Louis FC, then clawing back for a draw against Rio Grande Valley FC on Wednesday night.
The Republic cannot overlook Arizona and assume that Saturday’s match will be an easy win. The last time the Republic overlooked an opponent, they lost 3-1 to PDL club Kitsap Pumas in the third round of the U.S. Open Cup. The Republic will need to stay aggressive and score early to keep Arizona on their heels.
Return of the Dominant Defense
Starting center back Derek Foran has missed the past two games after suffering an injury in the Republic’s 1-0 win against the Real Monarchs SLC on June 8th. The Republic have given up three goals in that same time period. To put that in perspective, the Republic have only given up six goals in the 11 games prior to Foran's injury.
If Foran does return to the Republic this week, the team will have to worry about yellow card accumulation for the starting defensive backline. Foran and fellow center back Chris Christian currently sit at four cautions each. One more yellow card and they will have to serve a one game suspension.
However, in no way should the Republic let the looming threat of a suspension hinder their aggressiveness on defense. In fact, an aggressive and smothering defense should hamper any offensive threat from Arizona.
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
The Republic will be playing their first game in Arizona this season on Saturday during one of the most searing heat waves in recent years. Although kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m., the temperature is expected to be about 103 degrees. The Republic have yet to play this season in temperatures this intense and it will be interesting to see how the team handles the heat.
Arizona United are not immune to the heat either and they are coming off a shortened week with having played the Toros on Wednesday. As a one time resident of Arizona, I can tell you that the heat in the summer can be a factor with any outdoor activity. The young English lads, Daniel Trickett-Smith and Harry Williams, have probably never competed in this type of heat and may need an early substitution. The Republic may have to use all five subs to survive this scorcher of a match.
Please let us know what you think are the keys to success this week in the comments below.