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An inside look at the wild Western Conference

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With six games remaining, can Republic FC win the conference?

William Hodges/Indomitable City Soccer

Sacramento Republic FC’s two-game winning streak has put the club in striking distance to capture a second United Soccer League (USL) Western Conference title. Ultimately, the goal is to win the USL Cup regardless of how the standings play out. There is pride in winning the league title but more importantly to set the squad up to play as many home games as possible in the playoffs. Below I will break down the remaining schedules for the current top four teams in the West and lay out how each team is looking heading into the home stretch.

We saw Coach Simon Elliott employ the 3-4-3 formation again last Saturday night against a resurgent Seattle side. The boys in Old Glory Red were once again victorious in a comfortable home win. The resurgence of offensive firepower is key to completing the club’s goals this season. I wanted to mention that the Western Conference is tight in general and it is not a slam dunk that the Republic will finish fourth or better. However, with the team having the games in hand advantage over their closest adversaries behind them and having a favorable schedule in theory, I will focus on the top four.

Let’s take a look at where the teams currently sit and who their remaining opponents are. The current top four in the Western Conference and their remaining schedules include:

Real Monarchs (54 points) – 29 games played – five remaining

Last five matches: at Orange County (2nd place), at LA Galaxy II (13th), Colorado Springs (12th), OKC Energy (10th), at Fresno (11th).

Real Monarchs have led the West for most of the season. However, their recent run of form has been concerning. What looked like a comfortable lead has now evaporated as the club from Utah has one draw and three losses in their last four. Their next match at Orange County is a big one with both teams level on points. Overall, the schedule is favorable for Real Monarchs but lately they have struggled. At this point I can see them falling into the second or third spot by season’s end.

Orange County (54 points) – 29 games played – five remaining

Last five matches: at Fresno (11th), Real Monarchs (1st), at Las Vegas (14th), Seattle Sounders II (16th), at Reno (9th).

Orange County had stumbled recently but found their winning form against Oklahoma City. They play Fresno before hosting the Real Monarchs next week. It’s worth noting that they will be on short rest when they host the Monarchs and I suspect their last match of the season might be against a win-and-get-in Reno 1868 on the road. That might be a tall task in the final match of the season for Orange County.

Phoenix Rising (53 points) – 28 games played – six remaining

Last six matches: at Seattle Sounders 2 (16th), at Colorado Springs (12th), St. Louis FC (8th), Reno 1868 (9th), at Las Vegas (14th), Portland Timbers II (5th).

Phoenix had been on a tear until they lost to San Antonio, the current seventh seed. I see Phoenix getting back to winning form as their next two opponents are conference bottom feeders. I think we see Phoenix heading into the postseason in one of the first two spots.

Sacramento Republic FC (49 points) – 28 games played – six remaining

Last six matches: at Tulsa (17th), at OKC Energy (10th), Portland Timbers II (5th), Swope Park (6th), at LA Galaxy II (13th), Las Vegas (14th).

Republic FC are certainly on the outside looking in when we discuss pole position in the conference. However, the club has to feel good about their prospects. A game in hand over the current top two teams and a favorable schedule will keep Elliott and the squad optimistic. Their toughest two games left are at Papa Murphy’s Park.

The last time the Republic had the top seed they lost in their first match. The last time they had the eighth seed they won their first match. However, there is no question that playing at home gives the team a boost and postseason home matches are just flat out fun for the fans.

My money is on the team finishing second, behind Phoenix Rising. I have been clamoring for weeks now about how obtaining the second seed is what the club should aim for because it gives the opportunity for a minimum of two home playoff games and sets you up for a possible third match if the first seed loses one of their first two matches. The difference in the four and second seed is massive in my eyes.

Do you think the Republic have a chance at winning the conference? Do you think it is important to end up in the top two? Leave your thoughts below!