It was a case of bad news, good news for Sacramento Republic FC on Saturday, when they lost 2-1 to Phoenix Rising FC at Heart Health Park.
The bad news was the loss, of course, coming on a night when the home side played down a man for over a half. The good news was that in spite of the circumstances and result, Sac Republic were fully in the game and fought hard for a result, coming shorthanded against a formidable opponent.
Mark Briggs made a number of changes from the last game for Sacramento, which was nearly two weeks back:
It was a pretty chippy opening half-hour, with Phoenix having a few more speculative looks early, but the visitors took the lead in the 31st minute, with Solomon Asante scoring a free kick from about 25 yards to open the scoring.
Rafael Diaz appeared to pull up lame with an injury, and the Sacramento goalkeeper could not continue, getting subbed out just before halftime for Tomas Gomez. Meanwhile, Fatai Alashe was red carded for sticking an extra boot in a tackle in the 38th minute, putting the home side at a bigger disadvantage for the rest of the night.
With Sacramento needing to prioritize defending even more, the 2nd half was largely a Rising FC possession-fest. Dariusz Formella had a great look in the 51st minute with an audacious volley attempt off a corner kick, but his shot went just over the mark.
And then the big goal in the game came just after the hour mark, with David Egbo taking Asante’s feed in the box and slotting it past Gomez to make it 2-0 to Phoenix. While it looked like the pass from Asante may have been offside, there was no call and the goal stood. From there, it was a mountain for Sacramento to scale if they had any hope of getting a result from the game.
Remarkably, SRFC tried to scale the mountain, and got pretty close to it. Corben Bone and Luis Felipe entered the game for Andrew Wheeler-Omiunu and Kharlton Belmar in the 64th minute.
Republic FC pulled a goal back in the 72nd minute, as Dan Casey scored his debut goal with the club off a corner kick from Pete Pennanen.
Bone nearly got a dramatic equalizer in the 79th minute, as Sacramento pushed to get on level terms before full time. Jaime Villarreal entered the game in the 82nd minute in place of Shannon Gomez. Moments later, Sacramento had another good look, forcing a save from Phoenix GK Andre Rawls.
It’s another loss, stretching Sacramento’s winless run to six games at this point, and so that remains a concern. However, if they can build off this in the next game and actually start picking up wins, this could be a “turning point” moment that didn’t itself result in a win. Either way, Sacramento play Phoenix hard, but Briggs’ group still have plenty of work to do to get over the hump and actually get back in the win column.
Sacramento are next scheduled to play next Saturday against San Diego Loyal. The timing isn’t great, because Loyal started the season stuck but have since been arguably the hottest team in the division, so it’s yet another tough game on tap for Republic FC.
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