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Play-In Round: Sacramento Republic FC 2, New Mexico United 1

Sacramento takes advantage of home field off the leg of Thomas Enevoldsen

Photo courtesy of Sacramento Republic FC

Sacramento Republic FC came into tonight facing a New Mexico team in hopes of ending the season on a high note after an underwhelming finish to the regular season.

Both Republic FC and New Mexico came in with only one win over their last six matches, and New Mexico’s last visit to Papa Murphy’s Park earlier this July, there was reason to believe the visiting team would come out with some extra motivation. The bleachers were filled to the top as a rejuvenated fan base came out to Papa Murphy’s park to support their local squad as they scrapped their way to a sixth consecutive playoff appearance.

With the announcement of Sacramento officially receiving an MLS franchise and Ben Gumbert speaking on behalf of the team, the Republic would enter the match hoping to ride the city’s positive momentum into the match.

With only 13 passing seconds, New Mexico’s Forward Devon Sandoval would score the first goal and record setting (fastest in USL Championship history) as he stood alone in the middle of the box. He essentially passed it into the back of the net for an easy goal as Sacramento’s keeper Bobby Shuttleworth stood five feet from the ball with his arms spread and a confused look on his face.

As the 18th minute approached, the Republic would get one of its several threatening chances of the night as Sacramento defender, Juan Barahona, would find a small crease in the middle of the field and would find forward Cameron Iwasa in full stride. With first contact being a shot attempt, the rocketting strike would head towards the right side of the net only to be saved by what appeared to be a wall in New Mexico’s keeper, Cody Mizell.

In the 32nd and 34th minutes, Sacramento would get a couple more golden opportunities where a deep cross would eventually find a wide open Iwasa at the top of the box. He would head it towards the backside corner for a Republic player who was a couple of feet from the net, but couldn’t convert as Mizell tipped the ball away.

A couple moments later, Sacramento would get possession once again with midfielder Villyan Bijev leading the charge. As he ran down the left side of the field, Bijev would low cross the ball toward the near side of the net for forward Thomas Enevoldsen who would then shoot the ball and hit the post, just barely missing the tying goal by a matter of inches.

With an emotionally exhausting first half coming to an end, the atmosphere would become a quiet one as the crowd and players appeared to be ready to head to the locker room. This would end up becoming an advantage for Sacramento as they caught a sleeping New Mexico defense when Thomas Enevoldsen advanced the ball in the middle of the field and lobbed it toward Cameron Iwasa who stood just inside the right side of the box.

Iwasa would then head the ball toward the middle of the net and bounce off midfielder Drew Skundrich and at the feet of midfielder Keven Aleman who then tapped the ball in over a diving keeper for a tying goal in the 45th minute.

When the whistle sounded, Sacramento and New Mexico would leave the field tied at the half 1-1 due to nothing short of a miracle.

In the 55th minute, Sacramento would get a chance to take the lead as their aggressive play continued. Thomas Enevoldsen would receive a through pass as he sprinted down the middle of the field. He would then look up and find Iwasa to the outside of the box who would then pass the ball back toward the top of the box for Aleman who then took a shot attempt and hit the post of the upper right “V” of the goal, just barely missing.

After a very uneventful remaining second half and a series of blind crosses that rarely resulted in much, Sacramento finally hit the lottery as Sam Werner lobbed the ball across the field and placed it at the feat of Enevoldsen who took a shot on his first touch for a game-leading goal at a miraculous angle in the 82nd minute.

The goal by the Danish Dentist himself would be enough for Sacramento to close the game out and head home with a 2-1 win as the whistle sounded.

Sacramento will now advance toward the Western Conference Semifinals of the USL Championship Playoffs this Saturday when the face Reno 1868 FC for the rights to play in the Western Conference finals.