Sacramento Republic FC have their playoff spot wrapped up, so they’re on easy street, right? Think again.
Republic FC need a win for two key reasons Saturday against Reno 1868 FC, and it’s pretty straightforward.
Group A lead
Both teams have three games left to play, this one head-to-head-with Reno sitting a rather dominant five points ahead of Sacramento at this point.
So Sac Republic need to beat Reno and also make up an additional two-point deficit somehow in the final two games. Just because they beat Reno wouldn’t mean Sacramento would win the group, but if they don’t win, the group is effectively won by Reno.
At present SRFC are at 95 percent odds of finishing in 2nd place, and again, their playoff spot is wrapped up. But the difference between first place — hosting a first-round playoff game — and second place — almost certainly playing Phoenix Rising in Arizona — is pretty big. Let the chips fall where they may, but a win Saturday would give Sacramento a big boost in the chase to win the group with a chance of winning it away from Reno.
“It’s definitely the biggest game of the year thus far. It has a lot of implications for where we land in the playoffs, whether we can potentially overtake Reno and get that first spot in our group or if we end up in second. It’s a huge game, we want to win the group so we’re looking forward to it,” said midfielder Drew Skundrich this week.
I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s still bizarre that Sacramento have only lost once this season and yet they seem like they’re slumping ever so slightly. The last draw further reinforced that belief, and while Kharlton Belmar is on the board now for Sac Republic, either the defense breaks down to concede a win, something that will absolutely be punished in the playoffs, or the attack can’t get on track lately.
A strong three-game run to close out the regular season would do wonders for the team’s confidence and put them on track to really be contenders in the postseason. And that has to begin with the road game against Reno.
“It’s like any game, it’s a must-win, it’s a little bit bigger with first and second place at stake but we go there with confidence,” head coach Mark Briggs said this week in preparing for Saturday’s game. “We go there knowing that we can beat them, knowing we get three points and now we just have to show what we can do.”
It’s safe to say Sacramento know what they need to do. Now, they need to do it. Saturday should be a great game.
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