A late goal from super-sub Wilson Kneeshaw earned Republic FC a 1-1 draw with LA Galaxy II in what was a repeat of last weekend’s result on a smokey night at Bonney Field. The draw secured an October 1st playoff match at home.
A fifth-minute shot from Republic captain Danny Barrera was the first chance of the match, forcing a good save from LA Galaxy II keeper Clement Diop, but no Republic player was able to follow up on the rebound.
In the 13th minute, Harry Williams received a pass from Barrera down the middle and fired a shot from distance, but his effort went well wide.
The Galaxy had its first chance of the match in the 16th minute with a corner kick that was headed wide by midfielder Denzel Slager.
Republic Head Coach Paul Buckle had lined his team up a backline of five in order to give his fullbacks, James Kiffe and Elliott Hord, freedom to push forward, and the two dutifully responded throughout the game.
In the 19th minute, Kiffe sent a cross in from the left flank that connected with Williams, but the Englishman’s header went wide.
A few minutes later, Hord found space down the right wing and sent in a lovely weighted ball into the box, but Matt LaGrassa was unable to get on the end of it.
Beyond those attempts, clear-cut chances were sparse. The first half finished as a largely scrappy affair (18 total fouls) with little in the way of opportunities for either side, but just at the very tail end, LA Galaxy II opened the scoring via forward Ethan Zubak in the 44th minute.
Homegrown Player Jose Villarreal (the Galaxy’s equivalent of Republic’s Tommy Thompson) made a great run down the left wing, beating Mike da Fonte’s mark and sending in a piercing through ball toward the near post that Zubak merely had to tap in.
With it’s first-place spot in the conference table on the line, Republic started the second half with intensity. In the opening minute, Barrera received a ball from Kiffe which he attempted to lob over Diop, but the Frenchman got a hand on it and sent over the bar for a corner kick.
Two minutes later, the Republic captain continued his effort to put the team on his back, but his shot from outside the box sailed over the bar.
The home side continued to push in search of an equalizer, but was consistently unable to capitalize on the chances it was producing.
In the 57th minute, Cameron Iwasa, who had largely been subdued up until this point, had Republic’s best chance to equalize. Kiffe sent a ball into the box that Williams headed down to Iwasa, but the Sacramento-native fired his left-footed shot wide.
A minute later, Head Coach Paul Buckle introduced Carlton Cole for Matt LaGrassa in the hopes of providing the much-needed finishing touch, though he too would struggle to produce that.
In the 63rd, Kneeshaw, who had provided the equalizer against LA last weekend, came on for Carlos Rodriguez. It would prove to be one of two key moments in the match for Republic.
Two minutes later, Barrera sent in a free kick from the left wing that was just headed wide of goal by Chris Christian.
Republic sought to exploit Cole’s height and physicality with continued crosses, but were unable to connect with the star forward, for the most part. The closest they came was in the 70th minute, when Cole rose for a cross from a Barrera corner kick, but the former West Ham United player was deemed to have fouled his Galaxy defender before making contact with the ball.
The second key moment of the match for Republic occurred in the 75th minute. Republic was given a numerical advantage when the Galaxy’s Bryam Rebellion was sent off for a second yellow card after a foul on Barrera.
With an extra man on the field, Republic sent numbers forward and were finally rewarded for their efforts in the 80th minute thanks to Kneeshaw.
The former Middlesbrough FC product continued to make his case as Republic’s super-sub when he tapped in a rebound following a long-range shot from Iwasa. Diop made the initial save, but his parry landed right in Kneeshaw’s path and the forward made no mistake in front of goal.
Republic sought to win the match and nearly went ahead through Williams in the 84th minute. Kiffe received a ball on the left wing from Jeremy Hall and crossed into the box, but Williams’ volley went well over.
Despite Republic’s late efforts, the game ended 1-1, which dropped the Indomitable Club to second place in the Western Conference, tied on 49 points with table leaders Colorado Switchbacks FC. However, the draw secures a top-four finish for Republic, which guarantees them a first-round playoff game at home on October 1st. It also extended the team’s unbeaten streak to 10, tying the all-time franchise record.
What were your thoughts on the match? Happy with the draw or upset at the missed opportunity to stay atop the conference? Let us know below.