Sacramento Republic FC remained unbeaten in four games against rivals Reno 1868 FC in 2020, but a comeback turned out to only be a half-measure Saturday as the teams played to a 1-1 draw at Greater Nevada Field.
Sac Republic needed a win to keep hope alive they could win their group over Reno, but instead the Nevada side officially won Group A and that means Sacramento will need to play their first playoff game on the road this season.
Mark Briggs kept Juan Barahona and Dekel Keinan in defense to start this game, with Drew Skundrich a late scratch — hopefully with no serious injury moving forward — and Andrew Wheeler-Omiunu replacing him in midfield.
UPDATE: Last minute change, as Skundrich picked up a knock during warmups and Andrew Wheeler-Omiunu will take his place in the starting XI. @Lopez_Roro will wear the captain’s armband. #RNOvSAC https://t.co/dqyVQo1Y3f— x-Republic FC (@SacRepublicFC) September 27, 2020
The first half was fairly quiet, with both teams battling in the middle third, but Reno opened the scoring just before halftime. Corey Hertzog hit a looping cross against the grain, with Christiano Francois heading it down back across the goal mouth, and Brent Richards bundling it in to make it 1-0 for the home side in the 44th minute.
That goal obviously took the wind out of Sacramento sails after a pretty strong defensive performance otherwise in the first half. Attacking-wise, Republic FC failed to put a shot on target in the first 45, and Briggs brought on Villyan Bijev at the start of the second half in place of Sam Werner to try and give his side a spark.
Bijev helped set up a chance for Kharlton Belmar just after the restart and then the midfielder dribbled in and nearly scored himself a few minutes later, showing he could provide the needed benefit.
And the corner kick Bijev won led to Sacramento’s goal, as Keinan headed in Barahona’s corner kick service in the 51st minute from distance to make it 1-1.
Francois nearly grabbed a lead for Reno a few minutes later, as his blast from about 25 yards clanged off the top of the crossbar, almost catching Sac Republic goalkeeper Rafael Diaz a bit on edge on the play.
Cameron Iwasa attempted to provide the next boost for Sacramento’s attack when he entered the game in the 73rd minute for Rodrigo Lopez, as Republic FC pushed for a win late. But in spite of taking an edge in shots and shots on goal in the game, Sac Republic could not find the go-ahead goal in the match and the teams split the points.
All in all it was more of the same for Sacramento Republic in terms of the performance. They fought back to get a draw, obviously better than a loss, but couldn’t get over the hump to post an all-important win. The defense was largely good overall, but the breakdown on the goal will likely keep Briggs up at night with the playoffs approaching.
The draw means Reno have clinched the Group A win for the season, so Sacramento will need to start doing their homework on likely playoff opponent Phoenix Rising FC.
Sacramento enter the final week of the regular season next week, with the first of their last two scheduled games coming Wednesday at Tacoma Defiance. Two more chances to really tune up ahead of the postseason.
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