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Road win is a road win: Sacramento Republic 1, Portland Timbers 2 0

Iwasa’s wild night encapsulates Republic FC’s victory effort.

Courtesy of Republic FC.

Cameron Iwasa didn’t get his long-awaited 50th goal in USL play, but the forward made the pivotal play to hand Sacramento Republic FC a 1-0 win Saturday against Portland Timbers 2 at Providence Park.

Iwasa’s shot set up the game’s only goal, but he was not credited with the score to reach the landmark. He later had a gilt-edged chance from the penalty spot to pad the lead and get the goal, but it just wasn’t his night in that aspect of the scoresheet.

Mark Briggs had to make a few changes to his Sacramento lineup, with midfielders Rodrigo Lopez and Andrew Wheeler-Omiunu not making the trip, as he went with Jaime Villarreal and Sam Werner in the midfield. Rafael Diaz got his second straight start in goal, and Matt Mahoney made his return to the defense, with Ash Apollon not in the 18 for the game.

Sacramento opened the scoring in the 12th minute, as Iwasa’s shot clanged off the crossbar, then bounced off poor Portland goalkeeper Jake Leeker’s face before going in. It would have been Iwasa’s 50th in USL play in his career, but Leeker instead was given the own goal on the play. For Sacramento, it didn’t matter, a goal is a goal.

Sacramento had a couple decent looks after that before halftime, including a scramble that saw the ball trickle just wide of the post a few minutes after the goal, and a possible penalty shout after Sam Werner was brought down as he was taking a shot just before the break, that was not called.

But Republic FC got their penalty in the 53rd minute, as Drew Skundrich was brought down in the box on a cross by Portland’s Ken Krolicki. Iwasa stepped up, but his tame attempt was easily saved by Leeker.

A scary moment as the second half wore on, as Jordan McCrary and Hayden Sargis knocked heads on an aerial ball, McCrary getting the worst of it. But the defender stayed in the game, hopefully with no lasting effects.

Since Sacramento were only on a one-goal lead, they were under more pressure in the final 15 minutes than they probably ought to have been. Mahoney received his marching orders just before full time with his second yellow card of the night.

In some respects the result was as expected, with T2 winless so far this year, and getting the first road win is a big thing for Republic FC. Having said that, this maintained SRFC’s standard narrative this season — increasingly good in defense and posting another clean sheet, but unable to take advantage of an absolute edge in attack, settling for a narrow win in this case. Hey, a win is a win, and being able to earn a narrow win is a good skill for any team to have. But Sacramento’s inability to score freely continues to be a concern for the season thus far.

Republic FC are back in action Wednesday, when they head to Nevada for the first time this season, to take on Reno 1868 FC for the second time in 2020. Sacramento did beat Reno in the teams’ first meeting, but they needed a stoppage-time penalty to do that so this is likely to be a tough match, even with the previous result.

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