Republic Stoppage Time: Welcome Back
I should admit that the reason why this is the lead photo in this column is that I didn't actually take any pictures at Bonney Field last night -- at halftime, I was playing Pokemon.
A lot has changed in the world in the one month the Republic have been on the road.
That being said, not a lot has changed on the field, as shown in the Republic's 1-1 draw against San Antonio FC. I'll keep this brief because it really does seem like the same story on a different day, but here are some relevant Republic statistics:
For the 16th time in 22 games, the Republic failed to score a first half goal this year.
Sacramento have just 26 goals in 22 games this year, or 1.18 per game. For comparison, the Republic scored 43 goals in 28 games in 2015 (1.54 per game) and 49 goals in 28 games in 2014 (1.75 per game).
You can read my Davis Enterprise recap of the game here, but for now, let's focus on what head coach Paul Buckle said following the match.
"Every team that comes to the Republic to play at Bonney Field plays a good game," Buckle said. "[San Antonio FC goalkeeper Josh Ford] was in inspired form. He saved everything and he nearly saved the penalty. That's what we're up against, it's nothing new to us. I feel that's the best we've moved the ball in quite a long time, we've been very good with the football."
In Buckle's defense, the Republic did create more opportunities than San Antonio, forcing Ford to make six saves in the draw to Evan Newton's two. But yet again, Sacramento were caught out by an individual mistake from the back when center back Carlos Rodriguez gave the ball away in 15 minutes into the game, leading to the only San Antonio strike.
"It's an awful shame that Carlos gave the ball away where he did, but sometimes that's the price you pay for passing the ball and that's what we want to do," Buckle said. "We feel it's the best route to goal for us. We haven't got masses of strength up front, with physicality, so we've got to work the ball and that means the center backs getting on the ball."
There are two things about his comments that I find interesting.
1. Buckle again called out a player by name in the media, something that we and some in the club have been critical of him for doing this year. There's something of a double standard that exists in the media with comments like this though. We both want our interviewees to be honest, but then we condemn them for doing so. In order to be fair with his comments though, it must be noted that Buckle later praised Rodriguez's recent play and said that taking him out was a tactical decision more than anything else.
2. Buckle mentioned that they don't have a physical presence up top. This is true of the squad from last night, but won't be soon. As I reported on Twitter today, the Republic are bringing in English Premier League veteran Carlton Cole. I don't know if Cole has any legs left, but at 6-foot-3, he's certainly the physical specimen that the club is looking for.
I'll conclude with some thoughts on James Kiffe, probably in the running for the best Sacramento player this season, along with the now-injured Emrah Klimenta and forward Cameron Iwasa.
Kiffe was cautioned late in the game for a foul on a San Antonio player after the visitors didn't return the ball to the Republic on a drop ball that ensued after Sacramento had possession.
I won't argue whether or not the play by San Antonio was unfair or not, but the Republic are going to miss Kiffe and his bombing runs forward next Saturday when the Republic travel to take on St. Louis FC.
According to Buckle, part of the halftime tactical change was to free up James Kiffe to make those attacking runs forward. Sacramento were rewarded for the change in stoppage time when Kiffe was fouled in the box, setting up Octavio Guzman's equalizer from the spot.
It was the second time in as many games that a Kiffe run forward helped garner a result for the Republic -- it was Kiffe who scored the winning goal Tuesday in Oklahoma City.
"We got bumped a few times in the box, and we've got such a nice group -- they stay on their feet," Buckle said. "James actually, it was a penalty, it was a definite penalty. It showed our intent. It was the second time late in a game that our left back's been in the 18 yard box when the ball's being crossed from the right. We reap the rewards away from the home -- the day when James got the winner."
"We're a team that goes to the very end," he added. "We probably could have won it. We had a sight of their goal near the end to win it. I thought we were gonna win it. I had a feeling all night we were going to get back into it. We have to move on now, we have to try and move on."