Sacramento Republic FC are set to finish off a busy week tomorrow, hosting Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 at Bonney Field for the first (and last) time this season. Tomorrow’s match will be the Republic’s third game in the last week.
Last Time Out
The last time that Republic faced off against Whitecaps 2, it was at UBC Thunderbird Stadium on July 24th, right in the middle of a rough stretch of five road games. In keeping with the general theme of those five difficult matches, Republic walked away with a painful 2-1 loss.
The match began well enough, with a Cameron Iwasa getting the first goal of the match in the 14th minute and putting Republic in a great position early on. Danny Barrera put Iwasa in behind the Whitecaps 2 defense with a lovely through ball and Iwasa did well to put the ball past the keeper and into the net.
However, the lead that Iwasa earned did not last long, as Whitecaps 2’s Marco Bustos equalized in the 21st minute on a penalty kick.
Whitecaps 2 controlled most of the match, but the Republic played fairly well and looked to be comfortable playing for a draw on the road. Just as the result was within reach, however, it was snatched away by a late goal from Whitecaps 2’s Thomas Sanner, who beat Derek Foran to a Daniel Haber cross in second-half stoppage time.
The loss was an especially painful one, in part because of the extremely late goal, but also because it extended the Republic’s winless streak to four games.
Setting the Table
On paper, tomorrow’s match against Whitecaps 2 is one of the most difficult of the remaining games of the season. They are nipping at Republic’s heels in third place in the Western Conference standings, just three points back with a game in hand.
However, despite their top-tier position in the table, Whitecaps 2 have been struggling in recent weeks. They have only won one of their last five matches, taking only five points in that time. Prior to their 3-1 win over Arizona United, the last time Whitecaps 2 took a full three points from a game was their 2-1 win over the Republic in July.
Whitecaps 2 is without a doubt one of the more offensively imposing teams in the Western Conference right now. They have scored 39 goals in 24 games this season for an average of 1.63 goals per game, tied with Rio Grande Valley FC for the second most in the West, and have been shut out just five times.
However, despite the hugely productive offense, Whitecaps 2 only have a goal differential of +4, the lowest of the Western Conference’s upper echelon teams. This is because they tend to let in quite a few goals. Whitecaps 2 have allowed 35 goals in 24 games, an average of 1.46 per game. Only Orange County Blues and the basement-dwelling trio of Seattle Sounders 2 (40), Portland Timbers 2 (37), and Tulsa Roughnecks (50!) have conceded more goals.
Looking at the goal differentials, it appears that tomorrow’s match might end up being a bit of a shootout. The Whitecaps 2 defense are about as bad as that of Timbers 2, who Republic dropped four goals on recently, but the offense is much more dangerous. So while Republic may be able to take advantage of the defensive frailty, Whitecaps 2 could in turn take advantage of any defensive missteps to score goals of their own.
As I said in my most recent podcast, the Republic allowed too many opportunities for Timbers 2 when they played last week and a better team would surely take advantage. Whitecaps 2 are a better team. If the Republic do not shore up the defense, they might be in some trouble tomorrow.
Debut for Carlton Cole?
Remember that Carlton Cole guy? He’s only the most high profile signing in Sacramento Republic history. And he might very well be making his debut in tomorrow’s match.
As reported by the Sacramento Bee, Cole arrived in Sacramento a week late due to trouble getting travel documents and was at Republic training for the first time on Tuesday. He is expected to participate in his first full training session with the team today.
Although Paul Buckle did not guarantee that Cole will make his debut against Whitecaps 2, he did tell the Bee’s Bill Patterson that it is a definite possibility.
If Cole does make his debut, it seems unlikely that it would be as a starter. Although Cole certainly seems destined for a starting role, his short time with the team will likely mean that he’ll start tomorrow’s match on the bench.
Iwasa’s Opportunity, Part One
Cameron Iwasa is close to putting his name in the Republic record books for the second time this season. Earlier this year he scored the fastest goal in team history and now he has a chance to break Thomas Stewart’s record for most goals scored in a single season.
Thanks to his goal against Orange County Blues earlier this week, Iwasa has now tied the record. Tomorrow’s match is the first of five left in the season. The first of five chances that Iwasa, the Sacramento native and this season’s breakout player, has to make Republic history once again.
What are your thoughts on tomorrow’s game? Will the team rise to the challenge presented by Whitecaps 2? Will Cole make his debut? Will Iwasa break Stewart’s record? Sound off in the comments below!