Republic FC Finish Preseason with Comeback Victory over USL Champions
The Sacramento Republic FC have made it known that this upcoming 2020 USL season is championship or bust. The club has lived up to those expectations throughout their preseason by scheduling exhibition matches against top-level competition. Saturday night, the Republic wrapped up their preseason with a 3-2 comeback victory over the 2019 USL Champions Real Monarchs.
While Sacramento was in control of possession for the majority of the night, including the first half, a sloppy few minutes resulted in two quick Monarch goals in the 26th and 29th minutes.
The first goal came off of a free kick, awarded to Alvin Jones after a hard tackle by Republic winger Sam Werner, for which he was issued a yellow card. The second came off the foot of Monarchs midfielder Christopher Garcia on the counter attack.
Sacramento took a two goal deficit into halftime, where new head coach Mark Briggs admitted he had some harsh words for his players after their first half struggles. Briggs made his first substitution of the night coming out of the break, bringing in forward Kharlton Belmar, who needed less than a minute to make an impact.
Belmar’s early goal in the second half got the ball rolling for the Republic, who dominated possession throughout the 45 minutes. Less than 20 minutes after Sacramento’s first goal, Villyan Bijev would score a top-corner beauty from the edge of the box to bring the game level.
“Mario (Penagos) played me a great, firm ball which gave me enough time to take that first touch without the defender having the time to close me down. As soon as I took that first touch it kinda set up nicely for me, I thought ‘this is my bread and butter, I gotta whip this top corner'” said Bijev after the match.
The Republic weren’t done, especially not Bijev, who earned the brace and gave Sacramento their first lead with just minutes remaining in the match.
With the comeback victory over the defending champs putting a bow on the preseason, Coach Briggs spoke openly about the resiliency the club has shown already this year, “Speaks a lot about their character. We had a few harsh words at halftime to be honest. I thought you saw two different teams first half and second half which, credit to them, we got a reaction and, I think, in the second half they showed the team that we are and the team that we are capable of being”.
Bijev added, “It just helped us check off more boxes. All of preseason we have had a good amount of success, we have gone up early in out games, or taken the lead, the game in Seattle we were down a lot earlier, so to have a game where we went down two-zero in the first half, didn’t play the soccer we talked about playing. We looked a little bit flat, not as sharp as we wanted to be. But (going) into the locker room Coach gave a great talk – what he expected from us in the second half and we were able to come out and execute”.
The Sacramento Republic FC officially open the 2020 regular season next Saturday, March 7th, at Papa Murphys Park against FC Tulsa.