With the Orange County Blues’ big USL Cup playoffs showdown on Saturday, Three Questions is back! This time around, we speak to Omar Gonzalez of SB Nation’s Sacramento Republic blog Indomitable City Soccer to get the lowdown of the Blues’ opponents heading into the season’s biggest game. Many thanks to Omar for taking the time to answer my questions!
Angels on Parade asks Indomitable City Soccer:
1. Sacramento Republic grabbed the top seed in the Western Conference, and are on a long unbeaten run. I assume the goal is to win the league title again this year, but is there any chance they'll jump to conclusions and take the Blues too lightly on Saturday?
Absolutely not. These two sides have history and matches between them have always been close, physical affairs (a general trend between Sacramento and Los Angeles-based clubs). With the exception of a 6-1 Republic win back in 2014, every single match between these two clubs (that wasn’t a draw) has been decided by a single goal. Add in the fact that visiting teams seem to love playing at a typically sold-out Bonney Field and there’s every reason for Republic to be on their toes come Saturday.
2. Which players have been key to Sacramento's rise up the table in the past couple months?
The beauty of Sacramento’s success is that it’s very much the result of their collective effort. That said, I recently wrote about how it’s not coincidence that Republic’s current unbeaten streak began one game after Jeremy Hall’s addition to the squad. His MLS experience in midfield has been instrumental to a side like Republic that likes to play possession-based soccer. I also think the addition of right-back Elliott Hord has been vital because it has solidified Sacramento's backline and returned the dynamism to their right flank that went missing with Emrah Klimenta's injury. Then there’s also captain Danny Barrera who’s second in the league in assists and forward Cameron Iwasa who just broke the club's single-season scoring record last weekend with his twelfth goal of the year… I could keep going because Republic is truly a complete team.
3. Obviously, SRFC will be favored in Saturday's game, but as someone who watches them every week, how can they be beaten?
At the risk of committing treason, I’d say that beating Republic at home is a game of attrition. As a possession-based team, Sacramento tends to struggle against sides who are content with sitting back, absorbing pressure and waiting for the counter. Along this vein, head coach Paul Buckle instructs his center backs to play out to the of the back and Republic has conceded from defensive errors on more than one occasion when teams do a good job of pressing high up the field.
4. (Bonus) Prediction for Saturday's game?
Half of Republic’s ten encounters with OC Blues have ended 2-1 (3 wins, two losses with that scoreline), so I’m going to go with another 2-1 Republic win.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!