Sacramento Republic FC are not exactly strangers to the US Open Cup. This season is the club’s fourth time entering the competition and the third time it has reached the Fourth Round to face MLS competition. What is unique about this US Open Cup is not necessarily that Republic made it this far, but that for the first time ever, its MLS opponent will be a team other than the San Jose Earthquakes.
Republic faced its MLS neighbors in the 2014 and 2015 editions of the US Open Cup, due largely to the USOC practice of trying to pit regional teams against one another when possible. Both times Republic had a decent to good chance to win the match. Both times San Jose came out on top.
This year, however, the regional nature of USOC scheduling pitted San Jose against the NASL’s San Francisco Deltas, a team making its USOC debut. With San Jose spoken for, Republic find themselves staring down the Claret and Cobalt of Real Salt Lake.
As I mentioned before, Republic has come close to moving beyond this point in the USOC before, in no small part due to the Earthquakes being an average at best MLS team for the past few years. However, while the Republic have faced beatable situations before, this year it may have its best chance yet of moving on to the Round of 16.
In 2014, the Earthquakes had gained an average of 1.23 points per game by the time they faced Republic in USOC play. In 2015 its was 1.36 points per game. Real Salt Lake has been earning an average of 0.85 points per game this season. Not only that, RSL has a -20 goal differential, by far the worst in MLS. This is without a doubt the weakest MLS team Republic has ever faced in meaningful competition.
However, it is still an MLS team. And that means RSL is still the favorite and Republic is still the underdog. That being said, RSL’s record and the fact that Republic will be hosting the match at Papa Murhpy’s Park work in favor of the Quails.
Everything points to tomorrow’s match being one of the more likely upsets in this year’s USOC Fourth Round. The only question is, can this Republic team take advantage of it?
RSL may be weak this season, but Republic have seen better days as well. Coming into tomorrow’s match, Republic have only gained an average of 1.15 points per game, one of the lowest rates in the Western Conference.
Republic have also struggled to score for patches this season, with exactly one goal per game on average through 13 USL games. The team has been much more prolific in USOC play with six goals in two games. Although quality of competition is a factor, it is true that Republic’s offense has been more productive outside of USL competition.
Harry Williams in particular has been effective. He is the joint top goal scorer of the competition with three goals in two games.
If Harry Williams and the rest of the Republic offense are able to put in a good performance and take away a win on Wednesday, it would be arguably the biggest win in the team’s history barring the 2014 USL PRO Championship. If the team’s struggles continue and RSL is able to prevent the upset, however, it will likely be remembered as just another disappointing result.
What do you think the outcome of Wednesday’s match will be? Will Republic rise to the occasion and bring the upset, or will Real Salt Lake come into Papa Murphy’s Park and leave us all heartbroken? Sound off in the comments below!