With only three games left to play, Sacramento Republic FC are firmly in the home stretch of the USL Regular Season. The first of those three games takes place tomorrow against LA Galaxy II down at the StubHub Track and Field Stadium.
Last Time Out
Republic and Los Dos have played twice already this season, most recently on June 4th, just three days after crashing and burning out of the US Open Cup with a loss to the PDL’s Kitsap Pumas. The match was a dramatic, physical, and ultimately lackluster a 2-2 draw.
Just like many Republic games this season, the goals all came in the second half of the game.
Republic got on the board first thanks to a goal from Danny Barrera in the 51st minute. The captain was left wide open in the middle of the penalty area and headed in Emrah Klimenta’s cross for his first goal of the season.
Galaxy II wasted little time in responding and took the lead thanks to two goals in two minutes from the Villarreal brothers, Jaime and Jose.
Jaime struck first in the 57th minute with a well placed header off a cross from his brother.
Jose then struck in the 58th minute, making the Republic defense look foolish by capitalizing on a poor mistake by Derek Foran. Similar to his gaffe against Timbers 2, Foran held on to the ball for too long and was dispossessed by Villarreal, who then rounded Jakubek and finished into an open net.
Republic’s Daniel Trickett-Smith eventually equalized in the 81st minute to salvage a point in dramatic fashion. He did not stay on the field particularly long to enjoy his goal, however, as he received two yellow cards in quick fashion and was ejected from the match.
Setting the Table
Republic and Los Dos come into tomorrow’s match in two fairly different places in the USL Western Conference standings. Both teams are solidly in the playoff race, Republic are at the top of the table, but Galaxy II are down in sixth place, eight points away from Republic with a game in hand.
Republic have the better goal differential, with +12 to Los Dos’s +7. Although Galaxy II have scored more goals this season than Republic, they have also scored significantly more.
Lately, Galaxy II have not been the powerhouse that many Republic fans might remember them as. They have only won one of their last seven games, a 2-1 victory over the struggling Arizona United. The Republic, on the other hand, are unbeaten in their last eight games.
However, six of Los Dos’s last seven games have been away from home, which might help to explain the struggles. Tomorrow’s game is at StubHub, a place where they have only lost twice this season. Playing at home will surely give Los Dos an advantage.
Or rather, it would if they were playing any team other than Republic FC.
Home Away From Home
Usually when a team plays at home, one would expect it to be to their advantage. However, in the five times that Republic and Los Dos have played at either the StubHub Center or Track and Field Stadium, Galaxy II has not won a single game.
Republic have a record of four wins and one draw at Galaxy II’s supposed home field.
While that impressive record does in no way suggest that Republic are guaranteed a win in tomorrow’s game, it does suggest that they might at the very least not be as disadvantaged as they would be during a usual road match.
Tomorrow’s game is the last regular season contest between Republic and Los Dos. If Republic can get a win or draw, they will have gone three entire seasons without losing to Los Dos away from home.
The Return of Landon Donovan?
Editor’s Note: Due to the USL Roster Freeze on September 6, Donovan is ineligible to play for Galaxy II this season.
The LA Galaxy mothership set soccer Twitter alight yesterday with the announcement that Galaxy and USMNT legend, Landon Donovan, will be coming out of retirement and playing for them again.
He's back. pic.twitter.com/tOEduyVv7u— LA Galaxy (@LAGalaxy) September 8, 2016
While Donovan is no doubt returning to help the Galaxy first team, there are some questions that make the move relevant for Republic down in USL. This from a recent LAG Confidential story sums them up.
Match fitness is the biggest concern. Landon himself said he would need six months to get back into proper shape, a standard timeframe for how long a professional soccer player needs to be effective. There’s a reason even after robust pre-seasons, most teams take months to really hit that top gear.
It doesn’t help Donovan hasn’t played a competitive match since MLS Cup 2014. Unless LD has been training in a top-secret underground bunker somewhere, he needs to start getting as much touches as he possibly can ASAP.
The Donovan situation is quite similar to the Carlton Cole situation here in Sacramento. Neither player is fully match fit, though Cole is certainly the closer of the two, seeing as he is not coming back from retirement and has been training for weeks now,
Whether or not Donovan’s return could affect Republic FC is entirely up to how the Galaxy organization chooses to bring him back up to match fitness. If they decide to use him as the Republic has used Cole (a second-half sub), then there is nothing to be concerned about. But if they decide to send Donovan down to Los Dos to get his fitness up and some professional minutes under his belt again, then it becomes an issue. Republic could potentially be lining up against the one of the most successful Americans ever to play the game.
What do you think will happen in tomorrow’s match against LA Galaxy II? Will Republic take away three points from StubHub once again? Will Landon Donovan play? Sound off in the comments below!