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Promising start: Sacramento Republic 1, FC Tulsa 1

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Republic FC lead but forced to settle for draw.

Skundrich scored Sacramento’s first goal of 2020.
Joe de Ocampo

Sacramento Republic FC opened their 2020 USL Championship season with a battling performance against FC Tulsa on Saturday at Papa Murphy’s Park, but a late goal by the visitors meant the teams split the points following a 1-1 draw.

Sacramento was very much the better team in the first half, but the second half was far more even and the home side couldn’t find an insurance goal to wrap up the win. In the end, that loomed large as Tulsa found the equalizer.

Rookies Hayden Sargis and Mario Penagos started for Mark Briggs’ lineup, a big opportunity for the Sac Republic academy products.

Sacramento were active in the opening minutes, as they forced three saves from Tulsa goalkeeper Sean Lewis in the first three minutes. From there, good chances were hard to come by, but a dangerous diagonal in the box to Cameron Iwasa bearing down on goal in the 39th minute sailed over goal when the forward put a poke on it.

But the breakthrough came in the 42nd minute, when Drew Skundrich hit a sharp wormburner off a nice buildup to give Sacramento the lead heading into the break.

The second half slowed down quite a bit, with heavy legs seeming to hamper both teams. Rodrigo Lopez made his re-debut for Republic FC in the 68th minute, replacing Penagos.

Tulsa found a way back into the match, as Rodrigo da Costa scored the equalizer in 79th minute, beating Adam Grinwis from close range after an outstanding line-breaking pass by Lebo Moloto.

Preseason trialist Ash Apollon made his competitive debut for Sacramento in the 83rd minute, as he replaced Villyan Bijev, who was very sharp in the first half. Apollon went over in the box in the 88th minute as Marlon Santos made a shoulder barge, leaving Sac Republic fans and the team upset a penalty wasn’t called, but there was no call. Sam Werner had a great scissor kick side-volley, but Lewis was in the perfect spot and saved the shot.

The result is surely somewhat frustrating for Sac Republic, considering they held the lead for a long stretch of the game, but the goal they gave up demonstrates a momentary breakdown can be costly, and Tulsa’s set-up on that particular play was excellent. SRFC seemed to get tired in the second half, but it would seem another few games under their collective belts should help them find their fitness and hopefully, their full form, too. So it wasn’t the win they were looking for, but it was a decent performance to kick things off and build upon.

Sacramento will be back at it in a week, as they head to Nevada to take on Las Vegas Lights FC for the first time this season. Vegas are also coming off a Week 1 1-1 draw, so both sides will be eager to notch their first win this season.

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