It’s hard to believe that the season started for Sacramento Republic FC back on March 17 in what was a 2-1 win over San Antonio FC at home. As you might recall, the team started out really hot going unbeaten in their first seven matches to shoot up the top of the Western Conference. Then there was a stretch in the middle of June where they were winless over four matches (not including the U.S. Open Cup loss) where they looked flat.
But as we saw the final month or so play out, Republic climbed to second in the table and grabbed the second seed in the playoffs thanks in large part to going unbeaten in their final eight matches (seven of which were wins). Impressive.
And here we are now. The day before the opening round of the 2018 United Soccer League (USL) Playoffs where the Republic will be hosting Swope Park Rangers. How far will the Republic go? Is one or two wins in the playoffs enough to say it was a good year, or is it title or bust? Who else in the USL could make some noise?
Indomitable City Soccer contributor Jeff Shunta and I dive in with our predictions.
Sacramento Republic: Given the incredible play of late, I do not see any way that the Republic fail to at least advance to the second round of the playoffs. My honest projection is that they will be playing in the USL Cup, though a second round possible match up against Phoenix Rising FC will be the greatest challenge outside of any USL Final match.
The Republic will win 2-0 or 3-1 against Swope Park Rangers with Iwasa/Bijev/Matjasic being the most likely (in that order) to score.
Rest of the West: I see the chalk advancing in the first round and then I like Orange County and the Republic to make it to the Western Conference Finals, although if Phoenix defeats the Republic, I then I like them to advance to the USL Cup.
Eastern Conference: I see Cincinnati/New York Redbulls II/Pittsburgh/Louisville to make it out of the first round with Cincinnati and Louisville matching up in the Eastern Conference Finals with Cincinnati unfortunately making it to USL Cup.
Sacramento Republic: Given the Republic’s recent form, I do see them winning their opening round match against Swope Park. I feel that they are a better team, as shown in their recent 3-1 win against Swope at home.
Clearly the second round gets more difficult, but with the game at home, I give the advantage to the Quails, so I like them to advance against either Phoenix or Portland Timbers 2. If Republic and Orange County face off in the Conference Finals, I like Orange County to advance to the USL Cup Final. Boy do I hope I am wrong though.
Rest of West: Orange County stands tall in the Conference and among the other three teams on their side of the bracket. They are so balanced and dangerous offensively. I am pulling for St. Louis FC to make a run in their first playoff appearance. Good city and good fans. Phoenix’s back line has been shaky, so I don’t consider them a legitimate contender.
Eastern Conference: Louisville City FC stands out to me. Like the Republic, they closed the season unbeaten in their last seven. There last lost came on September 11 against Cincinnati 0-1. You know they would like nothing more than a rematch.
Cincinnati is the obvious favorite, but I just feel like their final trip to the USL playoffs before they jump to Major League Soccer is not going to go as planned.
USL Cup: Louisville City FC (please prove me wrong Republic FC)
I know the goal for the Republic is to hoist the USL Cup at the end, but I would say a trip to at least the Western Conference Finals would make it a successful season. Maybe even a first round win would be enough for some under first year Manager Simon Elliott.
What are your thoughts/predictions? Sound off in the comments section below and let us know!