Sacramento Republic FC looked like they were going to go 0-for-4 against Orange County SC in 2021, but a goal at the death by Nabi Kibunguchy gave Republic a share of the points in a 2-2 draw at Championship Soccer Stadium.
Kibunguchy came off the bench in the 90th minute, and the Sac Republic academy product scored the equalizer in the 94th minute to lift the visitors’ spirits and give them four points in their last two matches.
The big change in the Republic FC lineup coming in was forward Jerome Kiesewetter, on loan from FC Tulsa, making his first appearance with the Quails.
Cameron Iwasa had the first good look of the game for Sacramento, his rising shot going just wide of the mark around the 12-minute mark.
But Kharlton Belmar got the breakthrough in the 23rd minute, the forward taking the ball at the right flank from a big switch, dribbling with several stepovers into the box, and smashing the shot past Patrick Rakovsky in Orange County’s goal.
This was just beautiful by @Kharltonbelmar #OCvSAC pic.twitter.com/a3VHIFYVV8— Republic FC (@SacRepublicFC) July 25, 2021
However, Orange County found an equalizer in the 32nd minute, with Ronaldo Damus, in his return to the club from the Gold Cup, heading in a corner kick to tie up the score off Brent Richards’ initial header back against the grain.
The @USLChampionship High Jump (of the night) gold medal goes to Ronaldo Damus. #OCvSAC | @orangecountysc pic.twitter.com/mPyfXgn5ea— USL Championship (@USLChampionship) July 25, 2021
The teams went into the halftime break tied 1-1. Orange County had a 2-to-1 edge in possession through the first 45, but the teams were even steven on the attacking categories through that span.
The teams both searched for a go-ahead goal in the 2nd half, but it was Orange County that found it, in the 61st minute. Mikko Kuningas hit a pinpoint ball to Nathan Smith in the box, and the fullback crossed it through the 6-yard box to another fullback, Richards, who scored.
Some pure comedy celebrations tonight. #OCvSAC | @orangecountysc pic.twitter.com/kkEO2KFIOt— USL Championship (@USLChampionship) July 25, 2021
With 11 minutes to play, Mark Briggs brought in Mitchell Taintor and Fatai Alashe for Jordan McCrary and Pete Pennanen, Sacramento chasing a result.
But Orange County looked much more likely to score an insurance goal in the dying minutes than Sacramento were to get an equalizer, unfortunately.
But against the odds, they found the late, late, late equalizer, nonetheless. Kibunguchy was the man on the spot to head in Taintor’s last-gasp cross, and it was a draw that felt like a win for Sacramento.
SAC TOWN DOESN'T BACK DOWN! #OCvSAC | @SacRepublicFC pic.twitter.com/9vOJK3092S— USL Championship (@USLChampionship) July 25, 2021
This game started well, and until conceding the first goal Sacramento looked comfortable and in control of the match. But they looked destined to lose to Orange County for the fourth straight time this season, before Kibunguchy became the latest hometown hero to lift Republic FC. What a finish, and great to see from the rookie.
Next up for Sac Republic, a complete change of pace, as they host New York Red Bulls II for what I believe is the teams’ first ever competitive meeting. Will the new opponent be to Republic FC’s benefit? We’ll see what happens.
What do you think? Leave a comment below.