Sacramento Republic FC flattered to deceive for most of their match Wednesday against Portland Timbers 2 at Providence Park, but two very late goals from teenage substitute midfielders Mario Penagos and Julian Chavez won the game for the visitors in a wild 2-1 result.
After Penagos opened the scoring in the 87th minute, Portland tied up the game in second-half stoppage time, but Chavez scored a walkoff winner to keep T2 pointless on the season and Sacramento on pace in the race atop Group A in the USL Championship.
Mark Briggs played most of the usual suspects in his XI, with Kharlton Belmar out injured and unavailable, and Shannon Gomez making his first start since tearing his ACL last year.
Sacramento battered Portland early, but once again found the goals hard to come by against T2. In the first 25 minutes there was plenty of buildup, and Rodrigo Lopez got close to scoring with a rare header in the box, but he was off the mark and Sacramento kept working for the breakthrough.
It was more of the same for the rest of the game — Sacramento dominated possession and had the edge in total shots, but they couldn’t get shots on target whatsoever.
Just before the second-half hydration break, Republic FC goalkeeper Rafael Diaz had a close call, as he came out of the box to defend a ball and seemed to get close to handling the ball (a replay showed the touch was likely off the top of his shoulder) and then went 50-50 to beat the Portland player for the ball, with the attacker hitting the turf as Diaz won the ball. In the end, the referee waived off Portland’s red card and penalty appeals on the bang-bang play, and Diaz kept Portland off the board.
Just as it looked like Sacramento would be the first team to concede points to Portland, Mario Penagos came off the bench and scored the decisive go-ahead goal in the 87th minute. Penagos basically scored as soon as he entered the game, and his shot was SRFC’s first on target all game, so it was a clinical finish.
But the win wasn’t wrapped up, as Portland’s Dyson Clapier scored a nifty goal off a corner kick routine in second-half stoppage time to make it 1-1, and it appeared as though Sacramento would have to settle for a draw.
But the fireworks really came in the dying moments of the game, as another teenage midfielder, Chavez, scored the winner on the final kick of the game, after a beautiful dribble past a defender and angled shot to win the match.
I really think T2 are a good matchup for Sacramento, and even though the games are always close, these are good tests for Republic FC even though Timbers 2 can’t buy a win. And three points keeps Sacramento level on points atop Group A with Reno 1868, so their destiny very much remains in their hands.
Sacramento are next in action in a week’s time, next Wednesday, when they will host Orange County SC in the rescheduled game that was postponed due to the LA Galaxy II coronavirus outbreak. With Sacramento in good form and Orange County playing well this season themselves, it should be a real barnburner.
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