After the first 45 minutes of last Saturday’s match between Sacramento Republic FC and a synchronized diving squad from Utah, I went to wander around and look for some cider. Glad I brought gloves to drink my tallboys. You should too for these evening games until late May at least (#protip). It was pretty crowded, especially for the awful weather. It was “proper football weather.” Damp. Cold. Awful. Weather.
The soccer was awful too to be honest. A half we have seen time and time again over the past three and a half years and two managers of Republic FC soccer. It went something like this: Have a center back or goalie kick the ball far and wide for someone, probably Villyan Bijev. Hope he does something amazing all alone versus two defenders. Lose possession. Get it back (thanks Shannon Gomez). Stand around for a bit. Cameron Iwasa comes deep to try and make something happen. A midfielder runs around. Whistle blows. Stats: 133% Possession. 158/200 passes completed. 82 crosses. 0 shots on goal. Down 1-0....
At least I found a spot with cider on tap. Two types even! “Sweet and Dry”...no brands or varieties, just “Sweet or Dry sir?” Dry please.
Looking back on it, I really think Mitch Taintor’s introduction changed things around in the second half. I was not happy about Elliott Hord coming off, but the aquatics team had him pinned back pretty well. Taintor was distributing the ball like Tom Brady and making big challenges stepping up into the midfield. The whole team’s energy level seemed to pick up. So did the speed of play. So did the passing. SOMEONE ACTUALLY PLAYED A THROUGH BALL TO CAM ON THE GROUND. I fainted. He spun right off that last defender’s shoulder and into the box just like you knew he would. He nearly scored.
As the match neared its end, a vision in THICCNESS appeared at the far end of the field and trotted our way. He situated himself near the touchline in front of us in section 113. Immediately this Xherdan Shaquiri impersonator was doing things. Finding space, creating overloads, breezing past defenders into dangerous areas. Showing fearlessness. I wish there was a better view of Sam Werner’s first touch to get into the box as he set up his assist. He used, like, the outside of his left foot to gently curve a little through ball to his right foot at full pace. It was such as quick and memorizing move to set himself up. My buddy and I gasped. Then pandemonium. Game all tied up.
I came away from this first match with some pretty strong opinions on how this team should be set up. First, start Werner. He is a boss. Second, get Bijev central. It didn't take long to see the starting XI was very short on creativity. Bijev is one of our only players who has that “x factor.” His skill is wasted wide on the wings where, frankly, his lack of pace can be exposed.
Coach Elliott deployed a pretty clear 4-2-3-1 and Ray Sarri was good in the deeper holding midfield role. However, Drew Skundrich was unimpressive, scared to get on the ball and unsure of his positioning. Elliott should consider moving Bijev alongside Sarri and start Werner wide. Even a midfield with Taintor in it would be preferable, as his passing range and strong tackling skills can be useful to free attackers of unnecessary defensive duties.
Sarri and Taintor behind Tyler Blackwood, Bijev, and Werner, with Cam leading the line? Sounds pretty good to me. Does it to you? Let us know in the comments below.