Sacramento remains a leading contender for the next round of MLS expansion and have started “pre-construction” of a new stadium in anticipation of joining MLS in 2020. However, the USL side has experienced a lot of challenges this year and still has worked to be done in qualifying for the playoffs.
The Republic currently sit 7th in the standings with a two point lead over OKC Energy FC who is in the final playoff spot. The challenge, however, comes from Orange Country SC who is five points back and is one of the five matches still still to be played on a Wednesday night early in October at Champions Soccer Stadium in Irvine.
With a losing record on the road, Head Coach Paul Buckle had faced escalating calls for his dismissal despite the relatively strong 7-2-4 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, Trevan Caesar and Villyan Bijev, 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 average only a goal about every 61 minutes.
Defensively the Republic are 27th in the number of fouls conceded and tend to play a open tempo style without resorting to the chippy tactics of many USL teams. This has led to early goals for their opponents in the past couple matches and over the season as a whole. An overall +5 in goal differential allows them to occasionally climb back into matches, but they struggle to press for goals without allowing devastating counterattacks by their opponents.
Nick Besler, Connor Sparrow, Max Lachowecki, Daniel Haber, James Moberg, Kyle Curinga, Andrew Brody and Michael Gallagher were all part of a mixed squad that Real Salt Lake fielded in the 4-1 loss on June 15th in US Open Cup. Along with Chandler Moberg and Sebastian Velasquez, who were too old for a call up, and the new additions to the Monarchs squad, they will be looking to even the score.
With the offensive beginning to show signs of life for the first time last weekend, the Monarchs can hope for the scoring drought to end soon and victory to return to the score sheet.
This will be the ninth match between the Monarchs and the Republic. The overall series stands at 3-2-3 with the Monarchs pushing into positive territory in May 13th match this year at Rio Tinto which ended in a 2-0 for the home side. The Monarchs record on the road against Sacramento is only 1-1-2 with the sole victory coming last year in the final 2016 eeting between the two sides. Overall, the Monarchs hold a +2 goal differential.
What to watch for
The Monarchs desperately need to continue to establish some offensive rhythm and maintain the high number of shots and shots on goal they managed last week at home against Orange County SC. Sacramento has been featuring a very standard 4-4-2 with a number of men behind the ball and willing to patiently build from the back.
While the Monarchs will be in the middle of a three game week, Sacramento played on Saturday and has a Wednesday/Saturday matches both this week and next week which will necessitate some rotation in the squads.
Despite having 11 corner kicks the Monarchs failed to find any good chances from set pieces last Friday and need to become more dangerous when restarting play. In addition, the Monarchs need to improve their 15.2% accuracy on crosses. Far too many crosses in the past several matches have failed to find any target due to too much elevation or because they were simply blind crosses into a group of defenders.
Sacramento thrives on possession and scoring in the run of play. Once again this game will be won in the midfield and through high quality possession. Look for the Monarchs to once again have a high number of short passes early to get players into the match and looking for the ball. the Republic have given up early goals in the past several games and have not proven very adept at fighting from behind, so an early goal would be another great sign for the Monarchs.
Real Monarchs: (4-2-3-1) Sparrow; Curinga, Moberg, Peay, Lachowecki; Besler, Adams; Minter, Velasquez, Brody; Hoffman
Sacramento Republic: (4-4-2): Jakubek; Klimenta, Hall, Christian, Kiffe; Balckwood, Vazguez, Casarez, Bijev; Ochoa, Wisenfath
When: Wednesday, September 27, 8:30 pm MDT
Where: Papa Murphy’s Park — Sacramento, CA
Weather: 82 degrees, Clear