Last night’s cup defeat to LA Galaxy was tough. They were a beatable opponent but Republic couldn’t seem to get anything going. I have a few thoughts on that.
First, credit is due to the Galaxy for setting the team up right to stymie Sacramento’s attack. They pressured and almost man-marked all over the pitch. Augie in particular was effectively neutralized.
Second, the glaring issue I saw was Republic players trying to do far too much on their own. On several instances we saw Caesar, Blackwood, Kiffe, and Kneeshaw all take on 2, 3, 4 defenders at once in an attempt to make something happen. It never did. Players need to be on the lookout for that quick, easy, one-touch pass to a teammate. Often, Republic players find themselves isolated, and they make that “come here” motion, but by that time, the defense is set and the attack needs to restart. Perhaps the team could benefit from remaining slightly more compact in attack.
Another issue comes from having two “wide” midfielders who pinch in narrow. Barrera is essentially a false winger. He starts on the left or right but really plays more like a deep-lying play-maker in a free role. Very rarely does he have any touches along the outside lines. Blackwood’s positioning tends to put him up top as almost a third striker. This narrowing leaves space for Hord and KIffe to move into. That’s a good thing, because they offer a lot going forward. What it does mean, however, is a lot of space is exposed in wide areas and in the “channels” between fullbacks and center-backs. Hall and Cazarez must leave the middle of the pitch to chase down opponents who attack this space. That in turn leaves our center backs exposed, especially on the counter where the lack of speed in that position can be exploited.
Ok, this one I hate to even bring up, but Emrah Klimenta....has made some mistakes at the back. Like, big ones...a few times. Buckle needs to get that sorted out as Klimenta offers so much as center-back; vision, strength, and great passing ability. None of the 3 center backs, Christian, James, and Klimenta, have really looked solid this year. Giving up a goal or more a game is not going to be sustainable in the long run, even given Republic’s recent scoring prowess (in league play at least).
Finally, I want to point my salty gaze in the direction of the Galaxy. Yes, I said they set up their team correctly to bottle up Sacramento’s powerful attack. But correct in this case means Curt Onalfo has his team, one of the best in the MLS, 5 time champions, playing defensive, time-wasting, fouling, nasty anti-soccer at home against a lower division side. Did it work, yes. Would I be embarrased as an MLS or LA Galaxy fan, yes. The club should have more pride than to play soccer in that style. They have some of the most talented senior and especially young players available of any team in the country. Play like it. Fans deserve more. Again, for all Republic’s faults, they never put out performances like that and always try to play “the right way.” We should salute them for that.