The 2018 United Soccer League (USL) Playoffs kicked off at Papa Murphy’s Park Saturday night with the Sacramento Republic FC playing host to the Swope Park Rangers in what was the Quails first home playoff match since 2016. By kickoff, a warm fall day had turned cool, but an amped up, capacity crowd brought the heat like you would expect with playoff footy in California’s Capital City.
Republic FC Manager Simon Elliott went with a familiar starting XI:
Republic would earn the first solid chance of the match in the 12th minute when Keven Aleman moved the ball forward just outside the 18-yard box and hit a hard left-footed shot that Swope Park Rangers keeper Eric Dick’s was able to deflect with a diving save.
Four minutes later (16th minute), Villyan Bijev was able to collect a poor clearance from Swope Park and he drilled a shot that beat the keeper to give the Republic an early 1-0 advantage. It was no surprise it was Bijev as he’s been doing it all season.
In the 27th minute, Swope Park’s Wan Kuzain would equalize after given too much space inside the box. His low, left-footed strike easily beat Josh Cohen near post to level the score.
In the 31st minute, Republic would concede a second goal. Swope Park midfielder Rassambak Akhmatov would make a run up the right side on a counter attack and sent a low cross in the box that Hadji Barry was easily able to convert to give the road team a 1-2 advantage.
Following Bijev’s goal, Swope Park was really the better side in the first half as evident by their two goals, and would go the half with the advantage.
In the 50th minute, Jure Matjasic dribbled the ball into space following a throw in from the side and fired a low shot that hit the left post. It was a tremendous individual effort from Matjasic, who nearly leveled the match.
As the match wore on, the opportunity in the 50th minute ended up being the Republic’s best chance in the second half. Unfortunately, a horrific five minutes of defense in the first half was too much to overcome and the Republic’s season came to a crashing end.
Swope Park Rangers move on to face Phoenix Rising FC next weekend in the second round, while the Republic are left to ponder what might have been.
Sacramento Republic FC: 1 goals, 13 shots, 5 shots on target, 59.0 possession, 8 corners, 3 offsides, 2 yellow cards.
Swope Park Rangers: 2 goals, 5 shots, 5 shots on target, 41.0 possession, 2 corners, 0 offsides, 1 yellow card.
Republic FC Lineup: Josh Cohen; Elliott Hord, Emrah Klimenta (OUT, 81), Mitchell Taintor, Shannon Gomez; Jure Matjasic, Jeremy Hall, Hayden Partain (OUT, 71’), Villyan Bijev, Keven Aleman (OUT, 81’); Villyan Bijev, Cameron Iwasa.
Republic FC Bench: Rafael Diaz, Wilson Kneeshaw, Christian Eissele (IN, 71’), Luis Espino (IN, 81’), Cole Seiler (IN, 81’), Roberto Hategan, Justin Schmidt.