Republic FC Earn First Win in Dramatic Fashion
After opening the season with, as head coach Mark Briggs describes them, two disappointing draws, the Sacramento Republic FC finally earned a tally in the win column. Sunday’s match needed extra time for the only goal to be scored, but Sacramento prevailed with a 1-0 victory over their rivals Reno 1868 FC.
Last Wednesday, after a focused and intense training session, Briggs spoke with the media and shared his desire for a 1-0 result against Reno. He got his wish after his defense tightened up, improving from three goals allowed against Tacoma last Monday to their first clean sheet Sunday.
Sacramento made a few changes to their lineup, as forward Villyan Bijev and midfielders Sam Werner and Jaime Villarreal replaced Andrew Wheeler-Omiunu, Matt Mahoney and the leading goal scorer in the club’s history, Cameron Iwasa, in the starting 11. Briggs’ formation switched from a 3-5-2 against Tacoma to a modified 4-4-2/4-3-3 hybrid.
“When we spoke about what I want from tonight’s game earlier in the week, they delivered,” Briggs said, “I would have like them to make it a little bit easier and finish a lot of the chances that we do create and finish off the game a little bit earlier but what better a way to score in the 90th minute, to get a 1-0 lead and show the tenacity, the focus, the energy and the fight that I asked for”.
The match was chippy, aggressive and entertaining throughout. Although it took over 90 minutes to find the night’s only goal, the Republic had more than their fair share of chances. Sacramento totaled 22 shots on the night, including seven on goal, forcing Reno’s keeper to make seven tough saves. Defensively, the Republic back line maintained their shape, discipline and communication, allowing just six shots. Keeper Adam Grinwiss was only required to make one big save, which came in the second half.
The breakthrough for Sacramento came from the penalty spot, as a low cross was deflected off a Reno player’s hand in the box. Iwasa, who entered the game in the 63rd minute, slotted the penalty home in the bottom corner, earning his club the win in the closing minutes.
“For me, it’s always about having composure and not letting the moment get ahead of you,” Iwasa said. “I tried to stay in the moment and slow things down as much as I could and I was able to slot it away.”
The Republic now sit at the top of the table in the USL Championship Group A with five points. Tacoma is just behind them with four points after a dominant 3-0 win over Portland on Saturday.
Sacramento’s next match will be on the road, as the club pauses group play for their only regular season meeting against the LA Galaxy II. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. this Saturday, July 25th.