Sacremento Republic FC comes into Rio Tinto with a defense that has consistently leaked goals and a 1-3-1 record in the last five regular season games. In addition, Sacramento won only 3 games against playoff teams all season.
Head Coach Paul Buckle had faced escalating calls for his dismissal despite the relatively strong 8-4-4 mark at home at Papa Murphy’s Park. injuries and loans have hurt the Republic, but the inability to find and nuture a regular starting 11 has caused unhappiness in one of the larger USL fan bases.
Defenders James Kiffe and Jeremy Hall, along with midfielders Tyler Blackwood and Trevan Caesar, have formed the nucleus of the team for the bulk of the season. Bijev, Caesar and Blackwood have provided 22 of the Republic’s 40 goals with nearly all coming from inside the box and not one from a set piece. However, as a team, Sacramento’s conversion rate sits at just 13.3% and they only average a goal about every 61 minutes.
Defensively the Republic are 23th in the number of fouls conceded and allowed 43 goals during the 2017 USL regular season. Sacramento plays a open tempo style without resorting to the chippy tactics of many USL teams. This has led to early goals for their opponents in many matches, especially on the road. An overall +2 in goal differential means that they have difficulty climbing back into matches and struggle when pressing for goals against devastating counterattacks by their opponents.
Chandler Hoffman, who is a leading MVP candidate, and Sebastian Velasquez continue to drive the Monarchs offense. Hoffman also has 7 assists this season which combines with the 8 assists from Charlie Adams and 6 assists from Valesquez to lead the squad.
The three man center of the back line of James Moberg, Taylor Peay and Emilio Orozco continue to look strong in central defense. Connor Sparrow and Andrew Putna remains stellar in goal and captain Nick Besler leads the team from the defensive midfield.
Daniel Haber, Andrew Brody, Juan Mare, Danny Cruz, Diego Calvo, Skyler Milne and Chase Minter will all be available and pushing for time as the Monarchs ramp up to what will hopefully be a deep run in the playoffs.
The Monarchs defeated the Republic 2-0 in each of their two regular season meetings in 2017. The Monarchs are 2-0-1 overall at Rio Tinto against Sacramento and hold the edge in all matches 4-2-3.
What to watch for
Sacramento Republic FC is a good match up for the Monarchs as they tend to play an open offensive style without resorting to bunker tactics in road matches. Whether this will remain in the playoffs is still to be discovered, but look for both teams to make a determined effort to find a goal, or goals, in the first 30 minutes.
The Republic have an experienced side that is deep with talent, but not especially swift making them look to build possession and control of the ball. The Monarchs will need to show some control of their own and not consistently attempt to push the ball over the top to hit an onrushing attacker. Should the Monarchs use the hybrid 5 man back line, it will be important for the two outside wingers to frequently venture deep into the offensive side of play.
Ramy Toucan, who has been assigned this match, is an experience USL, NASL and NWSL referee who has proven to be quick to issue yellow cards, but hesitant to issue a red card without a major infringement or provocation. He is familiar with Rio Tinto as he managed the Monarchs match with San Antonio on September 2nd which had 6 yellow cards. Early cards could definitely play a part in this match and limit the options of both head coaches.
Real Monarchs SLC: (5-3-2) Sparrow; Cruz, Moberg, Peay, Orozco, Lachowecki; Besler, Adams, Valesquez; Mare, Hoffman
Sacramento Republic FC: (4-4-2): Newton; McGlynn, Klimenta, Christian, Kiffe; Blackwood, Hall, Cazarez, Bijev; Ochoa, Caesar
When: Friday, October 20, 7:30 pm MDT
Where: Rio Tinto Field — Sandy, UT
Weather: 46 degrees, Partly Cloudy