After an impressive 4-0 win last week against Orange County SC, Sacramento Republic FC begin a three-game road trip this Saturday against Tulsa Roughnecks FC at ONEOK Field. The Republic look to remain undefeated against a vastly improved Roughnecks team that finished at the bottom of the Western Conference last season.
The Roughnecks have started off strong this season and were undefeated until they had to retroactively forfeit their first match due to an ineligible player. The USL found that Roughnecks defender Paris Gee was not cleared to play in club’s season-opening match against the Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC, and the 4-1 win was changed to a 0-3 loss. The decision will likely leave the Roughnecks team with a chip on their shoulder and with something to prove to the league.
This match will be a homecoming for former Roughneck forward Sammy Ochoa, who signed with the Republic this past offseason. Ochoa who currently leads the league in goals scored with three. He also led the Roughnecks in 2016 with 11 goals and 6 assists. Further deepening the ties between the two teams is midfielder Joaquin Rivas, who played for the Republic for two seasons, but signed with the Roughnecks in February. Although there are no indications that Rivas has any hard feelings against his old club, fans should look for him to be a factor in the Roughnecks attack.
Last Time Out
The Republic only faced the Roughnecks once in 2016, in the final game of the season. The Republic won the match with an impressive 4-0 victory that secured a first place finish in the Western Conference. The Roughnecks had a tough year and finished last in the Western Conference with 19 points.
Keys to Success
The Roughnecks look like a completely different team this season, one that no longer relies on a top striker as their only offense. While the Roughnecks only have one official goal this season, they did find the back of the net five times if the goals from the season opener are included. Roughneck’s forward Ian Svantesson converted three goals this season (only one counts because of the forfeit) and is a formidable striker standing at 6’ 6”. The Republic backline will be challenged to keep Svantesson away from the ball.
Coach Paul Buckle will have to make a decision on who will start at center back for the Republic. Although Emrah Klimenta and Jeremy Hall did well against Orange County FC last week, he might need to start an experienced center back like Chris Christian to keep Svantesson in check. A back line consisting of James Kiffe, Chris Christian, Emrah Klimenta and Elliot Hord should be successful in containing the Roughneck attack. Whether Buckle chooses to use with that back line or goes with something else remains to be seen.
The Roughnecks, like the Republic, have only allowed one goal so far this season. The Republic will need to continue their aggressive attack with Ochoa and the Arden Archer himself, Wilson Kneeshaw, to disturb the Roughneck back-line. Jeremy Hall should move back to midfield where he is most effective to help control possession. Hall, teamed with Captain Danny Barrera, should provide excellent distribution for Ochoa and Kneeshaw, who are dangerous near the net.
The Republic are one of the most dangerous teams in the Western Conference and should come away with a win. Ochoa should find the back of the net against his old squad, but Kneeshaw could have a multi goal match. Final score: Republic 3, Roughnecks 1.
Will Ochoa and Kneeshaw both score in tomorrow’s game? Will Christian start at center back? Please leave your prediction or any other thoughts in the comments below.