Republic Stoppage Time: The One With 10 Men


September 9, 2020

Sacramento Republic FC 2 - Orange County SC 1

Papa Murphy's Park

Sacramento Goalscorers: Dariusz Formella (79), Villyan Bijev (87)

Orange County Goalscorers: Sean Okoli (5)

Attendance: 0

Normally I provide links to highlights and a game recap at the start of these, but it looks like KCRA's Michelle Dapper has everything we need in the tweet below:

Onto the storylines:

Lopez sees red

The game started out rough for Sacramento Republic FC, who fell behind just five minutes into the match. Things then got tougher when Rodrigo Lopez was sent off in the 57th minute for a dangerous tackle in the middle of the park.

Regardless of whether or not you think that was deserving of a red card for Lopez, the decision was made by the center referee and Sacramento was forced to play the rest of the game with 10 players and Lopez will miss Saturday's game against Reno.

A couple of notes about the red card:

- After the game, I was confused as to why Lopez went into that challenge in the first place, but according to Scott Waits of 916 Republic, head coach Mark Briggs yelled for Lopez to foul, presumably to stop a potential counter attack.

- Lopez tweeted that the foul was unintentional.

- I'm not sure if it's grammatically correct to continue here with another bullet, but it's my blog, so whatever, I'm doing it.

- In the postgame press conference, Briggs said, "Sometimes that's going to happen in games when good teams are playing and fouls happen. People are passionate, people want to win. I won't comment on the decision about the red card, but it was just a chippy game, but to be fair to our players, we didn't get involved, we got on with it and produced a great second half display."

- Because there were no fans, we get to hear a little bit extra during these games. Afterwards, defender Jordan McCrary ran up to Lopez and said, "hey Roro, we won!" Lopez deadpanned, "I did you guys a favor."

- Despite the red card, the Republic clinched yet another win, the team's sixth in a row, which ties the club record set by the 2014 team. The 2014 team, who would win the championship, won every game between July 27 and August 27 that year. These were the results in that win streak (home team listed first): Sacramento 5 - Pittsburgh 0, Arizona 1 - Sacramento 2, Sacramento 2 - OKC 1, Orange County 1 - Sacramento 6, Sacramento 2 - Wilmington 0, Sacramento 3 - Charleston 1. In those six games, Lopez provided four goals.

Rafa Diaz, team MVP?

Coming into the season, Dominican goalkeeper Rafa Diaz lost the starting goalkeeping job to Adam Grinwis. While Grinwis was a newcomer at the club -- Diaz has been in Sacramento since 2018 -- he came in with higher pedigree.

Though Grinwis only played five times in MLS for Orlando City, he backstopped the club to a US Open Cup semifinal run, stopping two penalties in a quarterfinal shootout against New York City FC.

Meanwhile, Diaz rode the bench and was only called on once Grinwis tore his ACL. However, ever since Diaz took over, the Republic have yet to lose.

Since starting in a scoreless draw at the San Diego Loyal, Diaz has allowed just four goals in seven games as Sacramento have picked up 19 points out of a possible 21.

Diaz recorded four more saves Wednesday night at Papa Murphy's Park, some in spectacular fashion.

Now, here's a picture of Brady Scott warming up:

What does this mean? Well, potentially nothing. For those who aren't familiar, 21-year-old Brady Scott is yet another goalkeeper with a better resume than Diaz has.

The Northern California native has been on the books for FC Koln in Germany and recently signed with Nashville SC and was subsequently loaned to the Republic.

Diaz might have to win the job in training yet again if Scott shows well, but for now, it appears as if the job is Diaz's. Here's what Briggs said before bringing in Scott: "Rafa’s done really well and Rafa’s the No. 1 right now and Rafa will be the No. 1 whether we bring someone in or we don’t, I think that’s important to put out there, but obviously we have to look at alternatives and we have to look at bringing somebody in who can possibly be the backup for Rafa in case Rafa gets injured -- you never know what you’re going to have to face so we’re communicating with a few clubs to see if there’s anything out there that we can do, but right now there’s nothing out there so we just gotta keep looking."

I doubt that Nashville would have loaned Scott to the Republic if there wasn't at least a good chance that he would play, so it will be interesting to see what happens. It would be hard, though, to bench the player who has arguably been the team MVP this year.

This week in dumb soccer

I fully understand that everyone who plays in a USL game is better at soccer than me and that's why I'm watching and not playing, but, I don't know, dumb soccer really pisses me off. I can both be not talented enough to play professional soccer and critical of the decisions players make on the field at the same time.

So that being said, I want to bring you to two moments in yesterday's game, one from each team:

This kills me every time it happens. An Orange County player has the ball just inside the six yard box. There is a player wide open at the top of the box and the keeper is on the ground.

You're not going to believe this, but this play resulted in a blocked shot from the player with the ball in this image.

For anyone who has watched more than three soccer games in their life, the correct play here is cutting the ball back to the wide open player. Would it have definitely been a goal? No, but I don't think it's unrealistic to estimate that the chances of Orange County scoring are somewhere between two to five times greater of scoring with the player at the top of the box. And yet, no pass.

There are two possible scenarios here:

1. The Orange County player in possession didn't see the open player at the top of the box. This is bad because that means he has limited vision.

2. The Orange County player in possession saw the player at the top of the box, but chose to shoot anyway. This is bad because that means the player cares more about scoring the goal himself rather than his team scoring the goal.

I don't know which scenario is correct in this case, but they're both dumb and I hate them.

Above is moment No. 2. Villyan Bijev is in possession of the ball. Bijev is 27-years-old, has played in Germany, England, Bulgaria, and the United States. Since arriving from Portland in 2017, he's been one of the Republic's best players. He also scored the winning goal in this game.

Overall, Bijev is very good in the USL, I'm not trying to say he's not. But his understanding of the game state right here is very poor. For that matter, it's also poor from Kharlton Belmar, Jaime Villarreal, and Dariusz Formella.

It's the 90th minute of the game. Your team is up 2-1. You're down a man. You have the ball. I don't know how to say this other than bluntly, but just keep the fucking ball.

Instead, Bijev played Villarreal through, but his touch was too hard and the ball rolled directly to the OC goalkeeper, who rolled the ball out and immediately beat those four players with just that incredibly low-difficulty pass.

The Republic didn't get caught this time, but they easily could have. All those players should realize that the correct option is for Bijev to take the ball to the corner and try to waste as much time as possible while also giving a tired, 10-man side a needed break. At most, one player should support and the rest should...rest.

Bijev was subbed out shortly thereafter and when he came off, Briggs walked up to him and said, "just keep the ball next time, okay?"

It didn't end up costing the Republic Wednesday, but it will eventually if better decisions aren't made. This was like the Super Bowl between the Patriots and the Falcons -- the Falcons didn't realize that all they had to do was run out the clock. Instead, they kept trying to score and, well, we all know what happened next.

Of note: on the broadcast, Adam Moffat literally was talking about how Sacramento just needed to keep the ball at this point.

Final notes

- There again was ash circling the field. This was my keyboard at halftime. Jonathan Ward of Sactown FC literally took notes on paper because he didn't want to get his computer dirty. Before the game, we spoke to Republic FC President Ben Gumpert, who told us that he was in talks all day with people in the know about the air quality in order to ensure the game was kicked off under safe standards. What we learned was that those "people in the know" is literally KCRA's Mark Finan, which I found cool.

- Last week I spoke to Republic defender Hayden Sargis for my latest NorCal Premier Soccer Q&A. You can read that here.

- I also spoke to Peninsula SC Director of Coaching Val Henderson for the same series. Henderson played professionally in WPS and Sweden and starred for both UCLA and the US youth national teams. You can read that here.

- The playoffs are all-but clinched for the Republic. Sacramento needs just a point Saturday against Reno to effectively guarantee a spot.

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