Sacramento Republic FC overcame a first half deficit with a stellar, two-goal performance to earn all three points against Orange County Blues tonight at Bonney Field. Rookie Matt LaGrassa scored his first professional goal to equalize, while Harry Williams scored his third of the year to seal the win.
The Republic started out strong, controlling the pace of the game and putting together a few dangerous attacking moves early on.
However, while the Republic started the half well, it was the visitors that took control as the first 45 ran on.
The Blues first threatened the Republic goal in the 21st minute with an excellently executed counter attack. Blues forward Ajeakwa fired a shot from the top of the Republic penalty area that rattled the crossbar and careened away into empty space.
Republic had a pair of chances in the 25th minute, but neither went in the net. The first was a fierce shot from distance by Danny Barrera, but the dipping strike was saved before it could find the back of the net. The second was an acrobatic effort from JJ Koval inside the penalty area that was off target.
The visitors came back with a strong attack in the 27th minute that was again only denied by the goal post.
While the Republic were helped by the post twice in the first 30 minutes, it betrayed them at the very end of the first half. In first half stoppage time, Chris Christian was judged to have handled the ball near the top of the penalty area, giving OC Blues a prime free kick opportunity. Free kick maestro, Didier Crettenand, then stepped up to the ball and curled in a beautiful shot that hit off the post and into the back of the net to give the visitors the lead heading into the locker rooms.
The Story at Halftime
Sacramento Republic FC: 5 shots, 3 shots on goal, 0 saves, 1 yellow card, 6 fouls, 3 corners, 1 offside.
Orange County Blues FC: 5 shots, 1 shot on goal, 3 saves, 0 yellow cards, 5 fouls, 3 corners, 3 offsides.
Republic came out from the locker room gunning for an early equalizer to erase the lead that the visitors earned right before the break. The early pressure paid off in the 48th minute when rookie Matt LaGrassa scored his first professional goal to equalize.
A good long ball from James Kiffe to Danny Barrera started the play, but it was Barrera that put it on a platter for LaGrassa to finish at the back post. That assist was the Barrera’s 9th of the season, giving him the Republic’s single season assist record that was previously held by Rodrigo Lopez.
Paul Buckle’s first substitution of the match came in the 60th minute, when he brought on forward Harry Williams for midfielder Jeremy Hall. Hall, already on a yellow card, also played midweek with Puerto Rico, so it is not entirely surprising that he did not play the full 90 minutes.
Williams made the most of his half hour on the field, scoring the game winner in the 85th minute off a cross from right back Elliott Hord.
The play started on a routine throw in, when Daniel Trickett-Smith threw the ball to Hord, who had worked his way into a good position. Hord then hit a short, first time pass to an open Williams, who controlled the ball with his left and fired a low shot into the back of the net with his right.
The goal was the third of the season for Williams. It also earned Hord, who only recently joined Republic, his first assist in Old Glory Red.
OC Blues threw everything they had at the Republic to find an equalizer, but a red card to the goal scorer, Ajeakwa, put the visitors in a tough spot. Despite some tense moments for the Republic, they were able to see out the rest of the match to complete their comeback.
This was not your everyday, run of the mill win. With tonight’s win over OC Blues, the Republic not only put themselves back on top of the Western Conference, the also clinched their spot in the playoffs for the third consecutive season.
Sacramento Republic FC: 2 goals, 10 shots, 5 shots on goal, 2 saves, 1 yellow card, 18 fouls, 4 corners, 1 offside.
Orange County Blues FC: 1 goal, 10 shots, 2 shots on goal, 3 saves, 2 yellow cards, 1 red card, 15 fouls, 5 corners, 4 offside.
What are your thoughts about tonight’s match? Now that Republic are in the playoffs, do you think they can grab home field advantage as well? Sound off in the comments below.