Sacramento Republic FC opened the 2021 season against a rare opponent who they lost to in 2020, in LA Galaxy II, but they exorcised any demons they may have carried over on Friday, with a late goal from a timely substitute landing them a 1-0 win at Dignity Health Sports Park.
Mark Briggs rolled out a 5-3-2 formation to kick off the season, a new look. Tomas Gomez started in goal with Rafael Diaz dealing with a groin injury, while Duke Lacroix, Dan Casey, Fatai Alashe and Pete Pennanen all made their Sac Republic debuts on the night in the starting XI, with Mitchell Taintor making his “re-debut” after a season away from the club.
The first half was very physical, with both teams unafraid to mix it up and get stuck in. Yellow cards were handed out on both sides, and both teams were not in full game rhythm with it being the first game of the season. Galaxy II had more of the ball in the first half, and while their shots were pretty speculative, Cameron Iwasa was largely on an island on the other end for Sacramento and Kharlton Belmar dropped well back to try and help defending and get on the ball.
Jaime Villarreal had a chance against his old team in the opening minutes of the 2nd half but his one-timer sailed high, although it showed some more attacking intent from Republic FC.
Sacramento had a great look at the hour mark, with Lacroix dribbling to the edge of the box and making a sharp shot that was saved by LA goalkeeper Eric Lopez, but Belmar couldn’t get cleanly on the ball off the rebound and LA snuffed out the second chance quickly to keep Republic FC off the board.
Briggs went to his bench for the first time in the 64th minute, bringing on Luis Felipe for Villarreal and Dariusz Formella for Belmar. Formella had a decent shot through traffic just a couple minutes later, but Lopez was up for the challenge again and made the save.
Iwasa was injured late on, with a possible hamstring injury, and Tucker Bone entered the game for him in the 80th minute, as Sacramento chased to find a winner late.
Bone’s entry proved to be decisive, as he hit the go-ahead goal in the 82nd minute off a centering pass from Shannon Gomez, Sacramento’s best link-up play of the night. Coming in his debut for the club, and being his hometown club, it was a momentous moment in his very first action for SRFC.
Briggs brought off Pennanen in the 89th minute for Jordan McCrary, as LA threw caution to the wind in an effort to get a late equalizer.
I think this was a typical opening-day performance for Sacramento, often looking fairly choppy and lacking rhythm, but they grinded through it and got the goal they needed, while also picking up a shutout, so they ticked just about every box in that respect. Are there parts of their game they can work on? Of course, but a road win against a team that beat them last season is a good start, and so is integrating a whole slew of new guys on the squad.
Sacramento get 12 days before their next game, on May 12 against Las Vegas Lights FC to open the home slate at Papa Murphy’s Park. Las Vegas will play their season opener this coming Wednesday against Galaxy II, so that will provide some game tape on a team that has completely turned over its roster since last season.
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