Republic Stoppage Time: Goals! (Finally)
SACRAMENTO -- Two quick things before we start:
1. This photograph doesn't do the amazing Republic crowd justice on glow stick giveaway night.
2. Glow stick giveaway night is a genius idea (or at least a much better idea than seat cushion giveaway night).
Let's cut to the chase: Sacramento Republic FC have had a goal-scoring problem in 2016, and therefore have been objectively boring to watch so far.
Saturday night's draw against Republic rivals Galaxy marked the first time all season (10 games) that there had been more than two total goals in a game involving the Republic.
Here are some more Republic goal-scoring statistics for your enjoyment. You know, if you're into masochism:
After finishing 4th (14 total teams) in the USL in goals in 2014 with 49, and 9th (24 total teams) in 2015 with 43, Sacramento Republic FC currently sit 26th (out of 29 teams) with just nine goals in 10 games in 2016. LA Galaxy II's Jack McBean (11 goals) has scored more times than Sacramento. Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2's Kyle Greig (9 goals) has equaled the Republic's goal-scoring total.
Seven of the 10 Republic games this year have entered halftime with a 0-0 scoreline.
The Republic's two leading goalscorers, Cameron Iwasa and Tommy Thompson, have just two goals each. The latter has played just four games this season because he's a San Jose Earthquake's loan player, meaning that if the Earthquakes have a game, he won't be available for Sacramento.
The Republic have been shut out four times already in 2016, the same total as the entirety of the 2014 Championship season. In 2015, they were shut out seven times.
In 19 league games under Paul Buckle, starting last June with his hiring by the club, Sacramento have scored just 23 goals, good for 1.21 goals per game. In 47 games under Preki, the Republic scored 78 goals, good for 1.66 goals per game.
Sacramento have been shut out in seven of Buckle's 19 games (36.8%). The Republic was only shut out in eight of Preki's 47 games (17.0%)
To be completely fair to Buckle, they aren't allowing goals either. In Buckle's 23 games in charge, the Republic have allowed just 13 goals (.565 Goals Against Average). In Preki's 47 games, Sacramento allowed 53 goals (1.227 GAA). This season, the Republic have allowed just six goals, almost all of which head coach Paul Buckle has described as "gift-wrapped" to the opposition.
After Jaime Villarreal's excellent 57th minute equalizer Saturday night, the Republic did gift the Galaxy a goal just one minute laterwith a careless giveaway from Derek Foran while the defender was in possession of the ball.
Jaime's older brother, Jose, stole the ball from Foran and rounded Dominik Jakubek in goal for one of the easier goals in his career.
In the post-match press conference, Buckle didn't hide his displeasure for Foran, or any of his other central defenders lately, telling the media: "I think I saw Derek Foran gift them the ball again. Like I saw Mike da Fonte do. Like I've seen Chris [Christian] do. Like I've seen Derek do in Portland. So individual error is one of the toughest things to stamp out because again, tonight, that's a game we should have won." Fans may recall from the Open Cup loss against Kitsap Pumas, that Buckle also blamed individual errors on Sacramento's loss.
Buckle blames poor refereeing partially on the result
Paul Buckle was also upset with the referee on the night, and showed his displeasure in his comments. Buckle thought that the Republic deserved a penalty late in stoppage time after left back James Kiffe was taken down in the attacking third. "I wasn't pleased with some of the calls, especially at the end -- I thought it was a penalty on Kiffe," Buckle said. "It's a foul minimum, outside [the box]."
The manager went on to question the decision of the sending off of substitute midfielder Daniel Trickett-Smith, who received two cautions in a three minute period after scoring a goal. "[It was a bad decision], sending off Trickett-Smith, who's not a dirty player," Buckle said. "There's a stage in the game where the ball falls between where you can't get a head on it, but it's there to compete. No one got hurt. It was studs up for the ball and we had a player sent off."
The manager later lightly joked about the sending off. "And then Trickett-Smith, I asked him to make the difference and he did in both ways," Buckle said of the substitution before again refuting the validity of the midfielder's ejection. "He scores a nice goal for me, but then he leaves the pitch. But the ball was there to be won and it didn't need a red card. This game didn't warrant a red card anywhere."
First, let's discuss the penalty non-call, which occurred right in front of the field-level "press box." Below is a quality still frame, but I invite you to watch the entire play here (it's one of the last plays before the final whistle blows, around the 94:20 mark of game action).
Kiffe makes a good move to get past Galaxy defender Nathan Smith, who reacts well, and actually looks to have position on the ball. Both players are leaning into each other shoulder-to-shoulder. I think that the non-call is correct and that center referee Levi Rippy did a good job in not getting sucked into the boisterous crowd of 11,569 at Bonney Field.
Furthermore, the contact doesn't actually occur in the penalty area. "The foul's going to happen outside the box regardless in my mind," color commentator Kevin Goldthwaite said during the broadcast.
As for the sending off of Trickett-Smith, there isn't a good replay on the first of two yellows, in which Trickett-Smith gave away the ball with a poor first touch, and then went in studs up on a Galaxy player in the 88th minute. Though Trickett-Smith appeared to make contact with the ball, he was likely cautioned for conduct that was determined to be reckless. According to FIFA Law 12, "'Reckless' means that the player has acted with complete disregard of the danger to, or consequences for, his opponent: a player who plays in a reckless manner shall be cautioned."
Contrary to popular belief, a player can receive a caution even if they win the ball in a manner in which they don't directly make contact with an opponent. It's a call that referees make sometimes and don't make other times. As a young player, the former Liverpool youth man will have to learn to make better decisions, especially in an area of the field where Sacramento weren't threatened.
As for the second yellow, it's pretty clear that the referee made the correct decision. Play-by-play man Rob McAllister called it an "easy call" on air, and it's hard not to agree. DTS (side note: one Republic employee told me he thought it was funny that Trickett-Smith "prefers to be called something that sounds like an STD") goes in high with his studs up. Here is the still image of the play:
With apologies again for the low quality of the image, this is a clear caution, again for reckless play. DTS has his studs up waist-high, and though the contact wasn't malicious or excessive in force, a player can always expect to be shown at least a caution when raising showing the bottom of their cleats at this elevation. Trickett-Smith will have to be smarter in the future, as the difference maker will now be suspended for Wednesday's game against Real Monarchs SLC.
Mirković in the house
At halftime of Saturday's match, a friend texted me to come over to section 101 of Bonney Field, where they were sitting. As I love with Republic games, so many people from our local soccer community come out to support the game in the area. I enjoy picking the brain of anyone involved in the game who attends, so I always try to chat with someone during the break to ask them about their experiences, especially if they're a friend.
I didn't end up finding this particular person, but instead I ran into former Republic assistant coach and current Academy Director Rod Underwood. Whenever I see Underwood, I like to check in with him about how the progress of the academy, now finished with its first campaign. The U-18 team just finished its season with a 2-0 win over the Seattle Sounders, and made the playoffs with a 17-8-7 record in the Northwest Division of the Development Academy league. Underwood's goal for the U-18's is for them to make it out of the group stage in the playoffs, set to kick off later this month in Frisco, Texas. The playoff draw takes place Wednesday.(Note: the U-16 team finished just two points out of a playoff spot with a 15-13-3 record that placed them fifth in the Northwest Division. UPDATE: According to Eddie Ralph, the U-16 team received word today that they did in fact make the playoffs.)
A few moments into our conversation, someone came up and stood next to me casually. When I turned to see who it was, I was shocked to find former Republic midfielder and fan-favorite Ivan Mirković with an ear-to-ear grin on his face.
Mirković, who moved onto the Orange County Blues after the first game of the season, was nonchalantly wandering around Bonney Field as if he wasn't a professional soccer player. Given that the Blues had a game at around the same time as the Republic, I immediately became confused (I should note that with all the soccer going on, I've missed a few minor details). It's possible that the following quotes from our conversation may not be exactly correct as I wasn't taking notes at the time.
"You know why he's here, right?" Underwood asked me. I shook my head, then asked Mirković if he was suspended. "Softest red card ever!" he exclaimed to us. "No seriously, look it up!"
You can watch the replay of his red card at the 1:39:45 mark here. The Blues captain does have a case for the decision being soft. Perhaps the card was given based on his reputation. Mirković famously refuted said reputation a must-listen-to episode of Beeman's Republic, the weekly Sac Republic podcast from Josh Beeman, the managing editor of Indomitable City Soccer.
Republic fans may be surprised to hear this, but that red card was Mirković's first since the 2014 season, where he was sent off three times: once in a preseason friendly against UC Davis, once in the U.S. Open Cup against Fresno Fuego, and once in league play against Oklahoma Energy FC. The latter was Mirković's most recent ejection, coming on June 14, 2014, nearly two years ago.
In addition to Mirković's suspension from Saturday, the midfielder is currently on warning from the USL, having received four yellow cards. One more yellow card from him will trigger an automatic suspension and fine for Mirković. In his time with the Republic, the hard-nosed player picked up 23 yellow cards and two red cards in 59 games of non-preseason competition.
Mirković was Saturday's game because he's, quite simply, a soccer junkie. "I just couldn't miss Sacramento - LA Galaxy II," he said. After catching up quickly, Mirković said that he thought that goals would come in the second half. "I told you," he laughed from afar after the game.
While we were waiting to interview Paul Buckle after the match, Mirković, who used to wear No. 18 for the Republic, told Republic media relations coordinator Eddie Ralph that Trickett-Smith is keeping up the tradition of No. 18's getting red cards for the Republic.
Mirković drove back down to Southern California Sunday morning, where the OC Blues scrimmaged the reserves of the Ecuador Men's National Team, who drew Brazil 0-0 in the two team's controversial Copa America opener. According to Mirković, the Blues lost 2-0 to the Ecuador players who didn't play against Brazil. "Those guys are good," Mirković said in a text message after the closed-door game. "Can't believe how simple they play, [there are no] extra touches, no extra running, [the] passes are sharp and clean. Great experience."
Finally, I'd like to leave you with the following. While Googling Kevin Goldthwaite's name for a quick spell check for the column, this gem of an image popped up. Make sure to tweet @k_goldthwaite in support for him bringing this excellent look back and into the broadcast booth.
As always, I would love to hear your feedback on this column, or anything else regarding the new website. I'll be back tomorrow with a post for a new weekly series I'm starting on the website, and check back Tuesday for content from Argentina - Chile. MESSI!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Update: Messi is out.)