Sacramento Republic FC continue their long road trip with a stop in Colorado this Saturday to face the Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC. The Switchbacks trail the Republic by two points in the Western Conference standings. The Republic are currently second in the standings and have a chance to take first place this weekend with a win against the Switchbacks and a loss by leaders Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2.
This Saturday’s game will be the only time the Republic and Switchbacks meet this season, in what should be a terrific match-up between two very similar clubs. The Republic are 0-1-1 all-time against the Switchbacks, with the last match ending 3-3 on August 14, 2015.
The Republic and Switchbacks are both winless in their previous two matches and both teams will look to get a much needed victory to climb the Western Conference standings.
The Republic will need to focus on the following keys to success to get back to their winning ways.
Goalkeeping Needs to Improve
Goalkeeping wasn’t an issue earlier this season when the Republic were getting multiple shutouts and were easily the best defensive team in the USL. But lately, the wheels have begun to fall off. The Republic currently sit fourth in the Western Conference standings in goals allowed with 17 and have allowed 11 goals in the past six matches. Six of those goals were accounted for in the last two matches alone.
Sure, changes in the defense may have contributed. Injuries to Emrah Klimenta and Derek Foran have had their impact as well, as a suspension for Chris Christian. When the defense is struggling, it is up to the goalkeeper to pick up the slack.
The blame cannot be attributed to Dominic Jakubek alone though. Last week, Jakubek was benched after allowing three goals in 20 minutes against Real Monarchs SLC, which allowed Evan Newton to get the start at keeper against Orange County Blues FC. Unfortunately, the story was the same, as Newton also allowed three goals, though one was a questionable penalty shot.
Whichever keeper gets the start this Saturday, they will have their work cut out for them since the Switchbacks don’t allow many goals, meaning a clean sheet may be necessary to come away with three points on Saturday.
Defense Needs to Improve
The Republic defense hasn’t been the same since Derek Foran sustained an injury back on June 8th. Since then, Mike da Fonte has been the starter at center back and has really come on strong as a scoring threat, but the defense has suffered.
With da Fonte serving a suspension for a red card he earned last week against the Blues, Foran will get the start this weekend against the Switchbacks. Foran will need to get back to his early season form and become a lock-down defender alongside Christian.
With the center back spot covered, the big concern centers around what to do at right-back since Klimenta is injured. Kip Colvey, on loan from the San Jose Earthquakes, doesn’t seem to me like the right player to replace Klimenta. I would like to see Joaquin Rivas get the start this Saturday instead.
Out of all the teams in the Western Conference, the Switchbacks are probably the most similar to the Republic. They both have strong defenses and goals are distributed amongst many players instead of a few strikers. Forward Martin Mavin is the Switchbacks's leading soccer with five goals, which is just one less then leading Republic scorer. Cameron Iwasa. Four other players for the Switchbacks have also scored three or more goals.
As for defense, the Switchbacks do not give up many goals and have allowed four fewer goals than the Republic this season. In fact, they have only allowed three goals in a single game once this season and have a 0.81 goals against average. By comparison, the Republic have a 1.00 goals against average and have allowed three goals in each of the last two matches.
The Republic have been the better offensive team lately and will need to keep the momentum to get past the Switchbacks defense.
Please let us know what you think are the keys to success this week, in the comments below.