Sacramento Republic FC have most of their upcoming 15 regular-season games accounted for (although we’re still waiting on the schedule), so let’s look at how their three group opponents started their season.
It’s pretty easy, honestly! Altogether, they’ve played four games.
Tacoma Defiance: Lost 3-1 to Reno 1868, Lost 2-1 to San Diego Loyal, both home
In the opener, Tacoma took the first-half lead through academy player Chris Hegardt but it was all Reno after that. You can read more below, but not a shock for a team of young prospects to not be able to hold onto a lead on opening night.
Tacoma are one of two teams in the league to have played two games, when they had a midweek clash against San Diego the day after the league shut down (but San Diego had already made it to Washington so they played the game behind closed doors).
San Diego took a lead at the half-hour mark, before Seattle Sounders loanee Justin Dhillon tied up the game for Tacoma. But Francis Atuahene scored his second of the game late for San Diego to win it for the visitors, Tacoma falling asleep just a bit on a play in which a San Diego player appeared to get hurt, and the lapse cost them.
Since they started the season with two losses and since they have one less game to work with to try and reach the playoffs, they’ll likely have to push for wins a bit more. I would definitely say not to take this team lightly, but there are definitely vulnerabilities to this team that Sacramento can go after.
Reno 1868: Won 3-1 at Tacoma Defiance
I put the highlights from the Tacoma-Reno game here because most of them belong to Reno. After going down 1-0 on the road, rookie Jack Skahan tied up the game for the visitors, before Christiano Francois cleaned up a rebound to take the lead, and Gilbert Fuentes scored a late insurance goal to ensure the win.
One big question for the USL Championship restart is which San Jose Earthquakes loanees will participate with Reno. That opening match featured a slew of Quakes loanees, including goalscorers Skahan and Fuentes. Fuentes is recovering from surgery, and he may do some rehab time in Nevada, but given the demands of the MLS is Back Tournament, I’m going to guess San Jose loan players will be at a minimum at least until mid-August, and perhaps afterwards, too, as the Earthquakes aim to compete in MLS on short rest, possibly perpetually. And honestly, you can say much of the same about Tacoma and Portland, since they are both MLS2 teams and are even more stretched in terms of core squad numbers.
Still, coming into group play, you have to expect Reno to be the toughest competition overall for Sacramento to win the group. Time will tell.
Portland Timbers 2: Lost 6-1 at Phoenix Rising
Ok, so T2 ran into a buzzsaw to open the season and followed that up with a shutdown so the only taste in their mouths so far this season is absolutely acrid. Phoenix newcomer Rufat Dadashov scored three goals himself in this game, with only Tomas Conechny offering any consolation for Portland.
I hesitate to make sweeping proclamations from a single rout that happened four months ago, but Portland looked rough in this one. Will they look this bad every week when they return? Probably not. Will this be another difficult season for them? It very well could be, if they haven’t figured out how to fix their defensive mistakes.
So that’s the story so far for Sacramento Republic’s group opponents. They will play three games outside of this group, but the opponents will likely be Las Vegas, Orange County, maybe LA Galaxy II, something like that, we await word to know for sure.
But I think the big story with this group is that while Reno has a solid core roster that is not loanees from an MLS team, all three teams are at least somewhat dependent on loanees who may or may not be available for USL Championship play now, and that could very much benefit Sacramento Republic, who so far have no players in on loan. We’ll see.
What do you think? Leave a comment below.