Sacramento Republic FC returned to action Monday after four months off due to the coronavirus pandemic, and were forced to settle for a 3-3 draw against a youthful Tacoma Defiance side to open group play in the USL Championship.
Sacramento went down early, then took a multigoal lead, but faded over the course of the second half and will be left to rue the breakdowns that led to two dropped points on the night.
Sacramento opted for a 5-3-2 XI, with Matt Mahoney, Tomas Hilliard-Arce and Hayden Sargis anchoring the center of defense, and Jordan McCrary and Ash Apollon — on his first start for the club — playing as the wingbacks for Mark Briggs’ team.
The action came instantly in the game, with Tacoma taking the lead in the first minute, Alec Diaz finishing off a team play with a shot that just beat Adam Grinwis to make it 1-0 to the visitors.
But Sacramento got back on level terms in the 8th minute. First, Rodrigo Lopez drew a penalty, then Darek Formella converted the penalty to tie it up, the Polish attacker jawing at Tacoma’s goalkeeper in celebration.
Then Republic FC got the lead in the 23rd minute, when Hilliard-Arce’s header went into the net off a Lopez corner kick. It was the defender’s debut for the club, so getting the goal was a nice bonus.
And then SRFC pulled away, as Formella scored his second of the game in the 37th minute, this one from the run of play, as McCrary teed him up in the box and he slotted it away to make it 3-1.
But Tacoma weren’t willing to lie down, as just before the hour mark, Defiance midfielder Jesse Daley hit a blast from outside the box on a long rebound from a Grinwis save, making it 3-2 and making Republic FC a tiny bit nervous.
It got worse, as substitute Ray Serrano scored the equalizer in the 81st minute, with Grinwis blocking the shot but conceding anyway, Tacoma tying it up late.
Formella was obviously a standout for Sacramento with his brace, and Lopez also did well, drawing the penalty and adding an assist in just over an hour of work. Meanwhile, there were some breakdowns for the Republic FC defense and goal, and while it’s the first game back after four months and they were showing a new look on the night, taking a lead and then conceding to settle for a draw twice in two games so far this year has to be a bit of a concern. Still, I think every team these days deserves some kind of grace period, given the unprecedented circumstances in our world.
Now, Sacramento will get some real rest, as they will get six days before their next game, Sunday against Reno 1868 FC at home, again behind closed doors. This will be one of the few games they’ll get on close to a week’s rest, so they’ll need to make the most of it and tune up for the first rivalry game of 2020.
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