Tonight’s match between Sacramento Republic and Reno 1868 marks the official start of the Donner Pass Derby rivalry because, as you know, a rivalry can’t happen without a rivalry name despite how many times the teams have already played and how others may feel.
However, despite the silly name, tonight’s will match may be a season defining one against Reno 1868 FC. Sac Republic is coming off of a 1-0 win against the Portland Timbers 2 and is currently on a seven game unbeaten streak, winning the last three in a row and shutting out all three teams. They face a true challenge this week, facing one of the best offenses in all of the USL in Reno. Reno, unlike Sac Republic, has been up and down over the past seven games, winning four of them but putting up an impressive 20 goals.
During their lone match-up in USL play this season on June 10th, Reno beat Sacramento 2-0 in a highly competitive match. Sacramento shot at 36% accuracy with all of their 11 shot attempts occurring within the box.
Sac Republic FC currently sits at fifth place in the Western conference, just two points behind fourth place Reno with a game in hand. If Sacramento Republic is able to win Saturday night, they’ll be able to swap places with Reno and keep that game in hand advantage.
It’s also important to note that Sacramento has been one of the least efficient teams in all of the USL this season with 21 goals (T-14th) on 283 shots (7th) for a lousy conversion rate of 13% (21st). This problem hasn’t been resolved as Sacramento has scored 4 goals during the 3 game win streak. Two of those teams, Portland Timbers 2 and Vancouver Whitecaps 2, are at the very bottom of the Western conference and are in the bottom 10 in goals allowed and yet Sacramento was unable to score more than 1onegoal in either game.
Therefore, Sacramento will have to continue to rely on the defense, led by Evan Newton, who has been on fire recently. Not only has Sac Republic shut out their opponents in the last 3 games, the team has also conceded the fourth fewest amount of goals in the league with 21. Reno’s high powered offense has scored a league high 51 goals, led by league leading scorer Dane Kelly, who has notched 15.
With Reno’s prolific attack, Saturday night will show whether or not Sacramento’s red hot defense is for real.