Sacramento Republic FC was unable to hold off an inspired Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC and fell 0-1 in their visit to Switchbacks Stadium thanks to an 83rd minute header from JJ Grier.
The Republic entered the match looking for their first ever win against Switchbacks FC, having lost 0-1 and tied 3-3 in the two previous fixtures last season.
Despite a dangerous shot from Republic captain Danny Barrera in the first minute that was saved by Switchbacks keeper Devala Gorrick, it was the pink-clad home team that set the tempo and dominated possession in the opening half.
The home side sought to exploit the aerial game against Republic, constantly moving the ball to forwards Miguel Gonzalez and Saeed Robinson on the wings and whipping in dangerous crosses into the box.
After a Switchbacks throw-in in the 11th minute, Mike Seth headed a cross down to Gonzalez, who fired a shot that went over the bar.
In the 20th minute, Seth headed down a long ball into the box once again, but the Republic defense was able to put enough pressure on the ball to recover.
A minute later, Octavio Guzman made a good run into the box for Republic, but was denied by a great tackle from Switchbacks defender Christian Ibeagha.
The home side continued to threaten with dangerous crosses into the box, but were unable to capitalize on their chances. In the 27th minute, Mike Maybin was only just unable to get on the end of a Robinson cross to the near post. This was followed by another well-placed cross from the left wing a minute later that Republic center back Chris Christian was able to clear.
In the 30th minute, Robinson made a run at goal and fired a shot from just outside the box that went wide. Republic was unable to alleviate the pressure at this point and find a way out of its own half.
When Republic was able to get the ball, they resorted to ineffective long balls from the defense. Left back James Kiffe, in particular, seemed hesitant to make his usual runs down the wing and would often opt for the long ball instead.
Head Coach Paul Buckle cut a frustrated figure on the sideline, visibly agitated at his team’s inability to push up. In the 34th minute, he subbed out Harry Williams for Max Alvarez in search of more control in midfield.
Republic goalkeeper Evan Newton, starting for his second consecutive game over Domenik Jakubek, was forced to make his first save of the night just a minute later after defender Derek Foran was unable to intercept a through ball into the box from Josh Suggs to Maybin.
Republic tried to respond in the 39th minute when Cameron Iwasa sent a lovely through ball to Alvarez, but the substitute’s chip over the Switchbacks keeper went wide.
In first half stoppage time, Gonzalez fired a left-footed rocket outside the box, which was well saved by the diving Newton.
Despite the onslaught of Switchback FC chances, Republic’s defense was able to weather the storm and the half ended 0-0.
Republic look more composed on the ball in the second half and were able to slow down the tempo and better retain possession.
In the 50th minute, the visiting side drew a foul on the right wing, but Barrera’s free kick was punched away by the home keeper.
A Switchbacks corner kick in the 60th minute left Republic in a good counter-attacking position, but Kiffe was forced to make a long-range effort that sailed over after being the only player forward on the break.
In the 65th minute, good linkup play between Guzman, Alvarez, and Kip Colvey allowed the right back to make a dangerous cross into the box, but no one was able to get on the end of it.
Four minutes later, Republic had their best chance of the second half. Alvarez laid off a cross from Guzman into the box to Kiffe and the defender fired a left-footed volley that went just wide of the Switchbacks goal.
Republic continued to drive forward and forced Switchbacks defender JJ Greer to make a last-ditch tackle to deny an on-rushing Mackenzie Pridham a shot on goal.
Pridham was menacing again in the 79th minute when he drove into the box from the right and beat a Switchbacks defender at the near post, but Gorrick came off his line well to deny Republic the opening goal.
The deadlock was finally broken in the 83rd minute with a Swithbacks goal.
A long ball from Gorrick into the Republic box fell to Switchbacks substitute Aaron King and Newton did well to come out and parry the ball out of bounds. In the resulting corner kick, Sugg’s cross to the far post was powerfully headed into goal by the unmarked Greer. Newton was able to get two hands on the shot, but was unable to keep it out.
Republic upped the pressure in stoppage time in search of an equalizer and had a chance with Iwasa in the 91st minute, but his shot from outside the box went wide. Another late effort from Pridham in the 95th was saved point blank and ricocheted in the box before being cleared out.
With the win, Switchbacks FC jumped up to third place with 30 points, one more than Republic, who fell down to fourth with 29 points. The Republic will seek to end their current three game winless streak next week when they travel to Vancouver on July 24th for a matchup with Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2.