With Republic’s much-anticipated playoff game against OC Blues just around the corner, Indomitable City Soccer spoke with Alicia Rodriguez of SB Nation’s Angels on Parade to get some insight into their Southern Californian opponent.
Below are Alicia’s answers to our questions (you can also read our responses to her questions here).
ICS: Visiting teams tend to feed off the great home support at Bonney Field when they come into town to play Republic. Do you think OC Blues is happy to be playing this game in Sacramento over Anteater Stadium?
AR: I'm not sure if they are happy about it considering they are the 8 seed playing the 1 seed, but it's probably the best possible outcome. Their third-shortest road trip, so they won't have to be tied up in traveling to Sacramento, and staying in California and not having to deal with a drastically different climate probably won't hurt. On top of that, the Blues have success at Bonney Field in the past, so there is no mystique in trying to grab an elusive win or anything at that particular venue.
It's also the best outcome because of the venue issues they had last year. The Blues were the top seed, getting a first-round bye and the right to host a playoff game at Anteater Stadium, but a scheduling issue there and inability to book an alternate venue meant they ceded their home-field advantage to their opponent, which happened to be the LA Galaxy II, who beat them handily on their turf. Things are looking up for the Blues' future with a new owner, but the day when the Blues get their own venue (or at least one where they have more control over the schedule) will be a very important day for the club, so the playoff game issue won't happen again.
What would you say is the biggest threat to Republic come Saturday? The dynamism of club-leading scorer Trevin Caesar, the experience of Didier Crettenand, who is second behind Caesar in goals and has scored against Republic on four occasions, or someone else?
Considering the duo has scored a hair under half OC's goals this year (49 percent, to be exact), one has to figure Caesar and Crettenand remain the top goal threats in the playoffs. Crettenand is especially useful because most of his goals have come from free kicks or penalties this year, so even if things aren't happening from the run of play, if he gets a set piece in a good spot the Blues have a good chance of at least getting a clear look on goal. And we all know that things get tighter in the playoffs, so that could be a very good backup option.
At the same time, Caesar has been in terrific form in the second half of the season and his brace to propel the Blues into the playoffs last week likely has him confident and in good form. He's a Trinidad & Tobago international, and I can't imagine he's intimidated by Sacramento's backline. If he gets three good chances on Saturday, he's likely putting one or two of them away, and that may be enough to win the game.
What is the Blues’ biggest weakness?
It's an intangible, but it's their inconsistency. Streaks really haven't been OC's thing this season -- instead, they usually look considerably different game to game. Considering they are coming off a 4-0 win last week, that's not a great omen for the game against SRFC. If they do happen to win on Saturday, it will be just the third time this season they've got a winning streak of any kind. So their track record, coupled with the underdog nature of being the lowest seed, make Sacramento big favorites in the game. At their best, the Blues can easily go toe to toe with their foes. It's just a question of whether they'll be at their best for the season's biggest game.
(Bonus) Your prediction for this match?
1-1 through 90 minutes, with Orange County getting a lucky bounce to win 2-1 in extra time.
A big thank you to Alicia for answering our questions! What’re your thoughts on the matchup this weekend? Let us know in the comments below: