Sacramento Republic FC will close out their five game road trip today against OKC Energy FC at Taft Stadium. Due to the unbalanced schedule in the Western Conference, today’s match will be the only time these two clubs will face each other this season outside of the playoffs. OKC Energy currently sit two points ahead of the Republic in fourth place in the Western Conference.
The Republic have struggled recently, only picking up two points in the last four road matches. Furthermore, the Republic have not recorded a victory since July 2nd. OKC Energy are currently on an eight game unbeaten streak and have only one loss at home all season.
The Republic have their work cut out for them today and will need to follow these keys to success:
Strong Defensive Performance
Despite the disappointing 0-0 draw last week against the Rio Grande Valley Toros FC, the Republic displayed a strong defensive performance. Former OKC Energy goalkeeper Evan Newton recorded his first shutout for the Republic and the first shutout for the club since June 8th. Newton logged four saves and has steadily improved since giving up three goals in his first start against the Orange County Blues FC.
The OKC Energy aren’t a particularly high scoring team. In fact, the Energy’s highest scorers, Michael Thomas, Coy Craft, and Wojciech Wojcik, only have three goals apiece. The Republic will need to have another great game from Newton and the back line to have a chance to record a second consecutive clean sheet.
Fix the Scoring Problem
The scoring problems have once again come back to bite the Republic. Having only scored one goal in the past three games, the Republic desperately need to find the back of the net before the season slips away. To make matters worse, former San Jose Earthquakes forward Adam Jahn was traded to the Columbus Crew SC. Now that Jahn can no longer be loaned, the Republic have lost another valuable weapon at forward.
OKC Energy FC have the best defense in the Western Conference and should have no problem stopping the Republic’s attack. In order to break through the Energy’s defense, one of the Republic’s forwards will have to have a breakout game. Cameron Iwasa, Harry Williams, and/or Mackenzie Pridham will have to be aggressive early and convert their chances.
Backup Plan: Set Pieces
The Republic have had some success recently on set pieces. Danny Barrera, who currently leads the USL with seven assists, has been a big part of that success with his delivery. Barrera will need to be accurate with his service and take advantage of any dangerous set piece opportunities he gets if the Republic want to breakdown the Energy’s stout defense.
One of Barrera’s favorite targets as of late has been defender Mike da Fonte, who has proven himself to be a dangerous threat on set pieces. Da Fonte is currently the second highest goal scorer on the team with three goals and has really stepped up lately as the offense has floundered. Look for the Republic to put themselves into position for set pieces that feature da Fonte.
Please let us know what you think are the keys to success this week in the comments below.