The monkey is off Sacramento Republic’s backs.
There was a palpable sense of relief as the club picked up their first win of the season Sunday, and did it in dramatic fashion, with forward Cameron Iwasa coming off the bench to draw a second-half stoppage time penalty and score it, giving Republic FC a 1-0 win over Reno 1868 FC.
It was a game that Sacramento dominated, but with the team looking destined for a third consecutive draw of the season as the minutes ticked down, the sense of frustration was wiped away in an instant at Papa Murphy’s Park.
“For us, it’s huge,” Iwasa told reporters during the postgame press conference. “Anytime you get the first win of the year, we’ve been disappointed with the first result back in March and then obviously last weekend, giving up the lead and allowing the comeback for another draw. To get the first W of the season is huge, especially against Reno. It’s a team that always gives us trouble, that we consider our rivals in this league. Anytime we can get three points against them it’s a big result.”
The win was Mark Briggs’ first as head coach of Sacramento, and Iwasa joked when told his manager said earlier in the week to reporters that SRFC needed a tight one-goal win, “getting that 1-0 win, I guess he spoke that into existence.”
“Sometimes it happens,” Briggs responded. “It’s probably the first bit of luck I’ve had of late. I’m glad we got the points, I’m glad we got my first win with Republic, got that out of the way.”
With the game being a rivalry match, midfielder Rodrigo Lopez watched a high-profile derby Saturday night in preparation, and said he took something from the occasion.
“Yesterday I was watching LA Galaxy against LAFC and to see the way Galaxy gave up, to me, in a rival game like that — that’s such a big game for the fans, for the city — and to see them give up so easily, it kind of got to me. And I said you know what, this game tomorrow, obviously Reno’s one of our rivals and we have to show it, we have to play like it’s our last game,” Lopez said.
Iwasa’s status as a bench player to start the game was something of a surprise, but the local product understood his role on the night.
“It’s something we always preach, coaching staff preaches it, we as a team preach it, that it’s a team thing,” he said. “It’s not just 11 guys, it’s not even just the 18 that are suiting up for the game, it’s our whole squad, even the guys who aren’t suited up. Everybody needs to make a contribution at some point, so for me it was trying to do my job as an attacking player coming off the bench, it’s to try and come in and be a spark and fortunately I was able to do that tonight.”
Briggs paid tribute to Iwasa for taking his substitute status and making the most of it.
“We have a very strong squad,” Briggs said. “Whoever starts in that starting XI, we have players that can easily be in that XI. I have to pick a team, I have to pick 11 players that I think are going to work for us at that particular match and that particular moment. But I think in bringing Cameron on and bringing Kharlton on, being fortunate enough to bring players of that caliber onto the field at a later part in the game, when our position is getting tired, it shows the depth of our squad, the strength of our squad. We’re in a fortunate position. They have to continue to drive one another.
“They have to force the issue and Cameron’s did just that tonight. Cameron deserves some credit. I left him out of the starting XI, and he’s came on the field and he’s won the game for us. That deserves a lot of credit. He didn’t put his lip on the ground and sulk. He came on the field and he got us three points. Fair play to Cameron and that’s what we’re looking for within the squad.”
And while the rivalry win came behind closed doors, Lopez and the rest of the organization were thinking of the fans throughout the occasion.
“We knew we had to leave it out on the field. We knew we owed the city and our fans a victory,” Lopez said.
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