Saturday’s scoreless draw against RGV Toros was somewhat of a Rorschach test for fans. A goalless draw at home does not generally lift the spirits. However, the game was exciting and it took another extraordinary goalkeeping performance to keep Republic out. Recent matches have revealed both positive and negative views of situations all over the pitch. Here are some things I see in that ink blot:
I think it is fair to Coach Buckle to say the draw was unlucky, and perhaps even that is a disservice to our opponent. RGV Toros came into the game having only conceded 5 goals all season. Despite that solidity in defense, Republic broke through it with relative ease, put 5 shots on target and forced 17 clearances in what I thought was a very good performance. It was fun to watch, the attacks were varied and Republic offered numerous threats. But again, a scoreless draw at home is never that good of a performance, is it? Republic can’t afford many more of these and needs to find consistency in front of net.
That consistency may be related to another dual sided issue, substitutions. Previously Buckle had shown a propensity to throw every striker on the pitch to chase games. Now, substitutions are more measured. They keep the team more balanced. However, the timing of changes is often off.
In the 2-2 draw against Seattle Sounders 2, Wilson Kneeshaw was going to come on during the first half in a swap for Trevin Caesar. That never bodes well for how the team was setup.
Other times, I think they have waited too long to substitute forwards out. This weekend, Sammy Ochoa should have been pulled much earlier. The big forward impresses with great footwork and creative passing, and is able to link up with teammates in ways his size might not imply. However, when chasing game and pushing for late goals someone else is needed. After 60 to 65 minutes we should see someone else come on rather than waiting till 75 plus. With such a varied quiver of forwards available, it would be nice to see some more options used.
Finally, Jeremy Hall has been great filling in at center back. He offers intelligence, pace, and ability to distribute passes. However, Republic should still be searching for another defender. While the promising young center-back Carlos Rodriguez is due back from his injury at some point this season, that is a risk to rely on. Julius James has come up with some big clearances and stops, but makes too many mistakes to warrant a starting role. Hall’s performance in defense is solid, but he belongs in the midfield. Hopefully Republic can find a way to keep him there.
There is good and bad to be seen in much of what Sacramento Republic is doing right now. The team is in a rather odd spot that way. What do you think, are they on the right track? Do big changes need to be made, or something simple? Do you see any change in performance lately? Let us know in the comments below.