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Puzzle unsolved: Sacramento Republic 0, Phoenix Rising 1

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One play separated the teams in this one.

Courtesy of Republic FC

Sacramento Republic FC put up a fight, but a single breakdown cost them in a 1-0 loss against Phoenix Rising FC on Saturday at Heart Health Park.

This was never a dominant performance by Phoenix in spite of the win, but that will likely be scant consolation for Sac Republic, who played the powerhouse foe well in two straight games against them and came away with consecutive 1-0 losses in those meetings, not to mention two straight 1-0 losses in their last two games.

Mark Briggs had a familiar group starting in this game for Sac Republic.

Sac Republic pushed the pace in the opening minutes, and they got tantalizingly close in the 10th minute, Pete Pennanen’s cross tapped in by Kharlton Belmar, only for his shot from close range deflected on a last-second Phoenix challenge to keep the home side off the board.

Phoenix got a good look in the 18th minute, but Sacramento defender Dan Casey blocked the shot out of harm’s way.

The teams continued to battle for the rest of the first half, but neither team could find a breakthrough. Duke Lacroix had a great look in the 40th minute at the far post, as the first shot on the play, by Belmar, was blocked, but Lacroix’s chip attempt went over the goal.

At the other end a couple minutes later, Santi Moar forced a save from Tomas Gomez, but the Sac Republic man easily caught the shot.

The teams went into the break at 0-0, Phoenix with a big edge in shots but their chances weren’t substantially better than Sacramento’s, to be honest.

Phoenix got the go-ahead goal in the 62nd minute, as a scramble in Sacramento’s box was nearly snuffed out by Republic FC, only for Santi Moar to latch onto the free ball and stroke the on-target shot.

Cameron Iwasa was a sub in the 2nd half and had a decent chance in the 79th minute, chasing down a ball on a counterattack and nearly getting his shot in full stride on target, which wasn’t easy with it being such a tough chance. Tucker Bone and Jordan McCrary also came off the bench around the 70 minute mark for Sac Republic.

It’s another frustrating loss, honestly. Republic FC haven’t played badly in either of their last two 1-0 defeats, but they’ve had a moment of weakness to concede in each game and that’s been the difference. It’s still early in the season, but the team is struggling to score when coming up against top defenses in the Pacific Division. I don’t think it’s time to panic, but it’s certainly a concern for a team that considers itself a contender this year.

Sacramento will next play Wednesday at home against Oakland Roots, the NorCal teams’ first meeting in USL Championship play. Will a rivalry be born? We’ll see.

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