Three first half goals and an inspired performance by Matt LaGrassa were enough to help Sacramento Republic defeat an unyielding Saint Louis FC 4-3 and escape from the Midwest with three points.
Republic had the first chance—and goal—of the match in the fifth minute, when Mike da Fonte won a free kick on the right wing. Republic played it short to Thommy Thompson, who drove down to the St. Louis goal line before sending in a cross that JJ Koval headed home for his first goal of the year.
The visitors continued to be in control, and in the ninth minute, Cameron Iwasa received the ball in midfield, made a lovely turn to break free from his mark and sent a through ball to Matt LaGrassa on the wing. The former Cal Poly player placed a great cross into the box, but no one was able to get on the end of it. However, the Iwasa-LaGrassa connection would prove to be fruitful throughout the match.
Two minutes later, the two combined again to double Republic’s lead. LaGrassa got the ball on the left wing and sent a low cross into the box. Iwasa barely got a touch on it, but it was enough to get past Saint Louis FC goalkeeper Ryan Thompson. It was the first time Republic scored more than one goal in the first half since September 12th, 2015.
St. Louis FC had its first chance of the game in the 13th minute, when Irvin Herrera fired a long-range effort from outside the penalty box, but Evan Newton was alert and controlled the shot easily.
In the 17th minute, Iwasa and LaGrassa combined beautifully again for Republic’s third goal. Iwasa played LaGrassa on the left side of the box and the midfielder lofted a perfect ball to the far post to an onrushing Octavio Guzman. The Mexican made no mistake and slotted the ball into the net on his first touch.
The home side was visibly blindsided and Republic used this to their advantage, continuing to exploit the left wing. In the 23rd minute, it was Thompson who made a run down that flank and sent a low curling cross into the box that Iwasa was unable to get on the end of.
St. Louis finally responded through Mike Ambersly in the 26th minute. The forward received a pass in the box from Herrera after a counter and was given enough time to turn and fire a shot between three Republic defenders. Newton got a touch on it, but was unable to keep it out.
Republic had another chance in the 42nd minute through Thompson, who received a long ball from da Fonte and burst into the St. Luois box before firing off a shot that was well saved by the onrushing Saint Louis keeper.
The Indomitable Club was nearly stunned on the verge of halftime via free kick outside its box. The cross into the box was headed to Herrera at the far post and the Salvadoran slotted low past Newton, but the referee called it offside and the half ended 3-1 to Republic.
Saint Louis didn’t drop their arms in defeat and they kicked off the second half with even more intensity than they closed the first half with, putting tremendous pressure on the Republic backline.
It nearly bore fruit in the 56th minute when Ambersley received a low through ball into the box, but was unable to beat the onrushing Newton.
The next minute, Guzman, playing right back on this occasion, sent a great long ball to Thompson down the right wing. The San Jose Earthquakes player beat his mark before placing a perfect cross to Iwasa, who powerfully headed home his team’s fourth goal of the night.
LaGrassa, easily Republic’s Man of the Match, was substituted in the 69th minute for Max Alvarez, which prompted one of the St. Louis commentators to remark that he was now a big fan of the Republic midfielder following his performance against St. Louis.
With 20 minutes left to play, and LaGrassa off the field, Republic lowered their intensity and St. Louis continued to press, unwilling to yield before their home crowd. They were almost rewarded for it in the 70th minute, when they forced a turnover that Alex Morrell shot just wide of goal.
In the 74th minute, St. Louis substitute Jordan Roberts beat Guzman on the left wing, dribbled around the box and fired a rocket straight at Newton that the keeper was unable to parry away, making it 4-2 with a quarter-hour left to play.
St. Louis persisted and Newton was forced to make a save in the 82nd minute after Roberts beat his two marks on the left wing and fired a shot from outside the box.
A late free kick just outside the box in the 85th minute gave St. Louis another opportunity to reduce the deficit, but Cochran’s header went just over the bar.
St. Louis threatened a late comeback when Chad Bond curled a lovely a free kick into the upper left corner of the goal in the 90th minute.
Despite the late rally, Republic were able to weather the storm and come away with all three points. The win catapults Sacramento to second place in the Western Conference standings with 37 points.
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