It was the proverbial game of two halves for Sacramento Republic FC Saturday, as a rocky first half gave way to a dominant second half in a 2-1 win over Portland Timbers 2 at Papa Murphy’s Park.
The win helps Sacramento keep pace atop Group A alongside Reno 1868 FC, and is Republic FC’s fourth consecutive win. That this result came in different fashion than other recent results, with Portland taking the lead before a Sac Republic rally flipped the result, gives them experience in dealing with different game states.
Mark Briggs went with the same XI from Sacramento’s previous game, a win over Tacoma Defiance last week.
Rookie Jorge Gonzalez was sharp early in the game for Timbers 2, offering a few good chances that showed a more robust threat in attack than the last meeting between these teams. Even so, those early looks did not result in a goal.
But he found his breakthrough in the 23rd minute, getting a feed, taking a turn past Sacramento’s defense, and coolly slotting it past Rafael Diaz to give Portland a surprise 1-0 lead.
Portland weren’t done putting Sacramento on their toes, as Diaz was forced to make a save in the 40th minute, as Gio Calixtro’s shot looked bound for goal, but Diaz made the stop.
At the break, Briggs made a change in defense, replacing Tomas Hilliard-Arce with Matt Mahoney for Republic FC.
It looked like Sacramento got their equalizer in the 52nd minute, as Drew Skundrich made a give-and-go where he got the ball in the box and made a battling shot while off-balance. But Timbers 2 goalkeeper Hunter Sulte got his left arm out to make a block, with the ball bouncing off the post and somehow caroming back to the field, incredibly, to keep SRFC off the board.
A few minutes later, Sulte’s attempt to play it out of the back bounced off Cameron Iwasa and went just over the goal, saving Sulte’s blushes on a huge gaffe on the play.
But Republic FC found their breakthrough at the hour mark, as Skundrich finished off a great team buildup, with several players involved at working the ball around before the midfielder finished the play with a tap-in at the top of the 6-yard box to make it 1-1.
While Portland tried to get their rhythm back to get another goal, Sacramento got the next goal to make it 2-1, with Cameron Iwasa finishing another team buildup with a deft chip over Sulte in the 69th minute.
Defender Shannon Gomez made his return to play after about a year out with a knee injury in the 85th minute, replacing Iwasa to help ice the result and get some minutes back on his legs.
I think Sacramento will have a bit of concern of coming out rather flat and letting the previously hapless Timbers 2 squad take the lead on them in Papa Murphy’s Park in the first half. But credit to the team for digging deep and rallying in the second half and making sure they aren’t the first team to drop points to Portland this year, who remain winless on the season to date. Goals from the run of play are a sign of continued growth from Sac Republic, as is the buildup on both of those strikes, showing the team attack is finding some rhythm after a rocky run to start the season.
Sacramento get a bit of a break, as they aren’t scheduled to be in action again for another week and a half, Sept. 2 against T2 again in Portland in a rematch. Given how good of form they’re in, SRFC may not want a few extra days off at this point, but good luck to them on their mini-break.
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