Republic Stoppage Time: Hanging on by a thread
September 26, 2020
Reno 1868 FC 1 - Sacramento Republic FC 1
Greater Nevada Field
Reno Goalscorers: Brent Richards (44)
Sacramento Goalscorers: Dekel Keinan (51)
RENO -- All game Saturday when Reno 1868 FC hosted Sacramento Republic FC, some idiot on Twitter kept falsely claiming that Sacramento Republic FC needed all three points in order to stay alive in the USL Group A standings. So when the Republic were winding down their relatively uneventful 1-1 draw with Reno, I had to go on and correct that person. No, Reno have not clinched first place in the group, they just lead by five points with two games remaining.
That person that needed correcting? It was me. I don't know if it was the drive or just a random brain fart, but I clearly just wasn't thinking. In my defense, when I took the CBEST eight years ago, I literally forgot how to do long division and instead just guessed and checked my answers using multiplication.
But my point remains. For all intents and purposes, the Republic needed to win Saturday night. A win would have put them within two points of Reno. After giving up a goal right before halftime, Sacramento's Dekel Keinan scored his first goal off the season off of a set piece to level the game just after the break.
"It felt like a playoff game to be honest, it was actually pretty ugly. I'm glad there were no fans here tonight, they would have been disappointed," said Reno head coach Ian Russell. "They didn't have a ton of chances, but I thought that on the night, they were a little bit sharper and cleaner than we were."
Added Reno midfielder Sam Gleadle: "They're a good group, it doesn't matter if it's the first time or the fourth time we've played them. Their players show up for the games and if they're not playing well, their players work hard and throw in tackles so we have to match their energy. Tonight we showed that we're both pretty good and we're both fighters."
Onto the storylines:
With the draw, Reno are just one point away from clinching the top spot in Group A as the first tiebreaker is total wins, so if Reno draw and lose and the Republic win both of their remaining games and both teams finish tied on 33 points, Reno will still edge Sacramento 10 wins to nine.
However, that's very unlikely as Reno finish the season by hosting the Las Vegas Lights and traveling to Tacoma Defiance. Those teams have a combined record of 4-17-6.
The Republic, who finish at Tacoma and home against Portland Timbers 2, will need to win both of their games and have Reno lose both of theirs.
More likely than not, Sacramento will face an away game at the winner of Group B in the first round of the playoffs, likely Phoenix Rising FC.
Here are the Group B standings:
Like Reno, Phoenix are just one point away from clinching their group, though it remains to be seen what will happen with the LA Galaxy II - San Diego Loyal SC game that ended in a 1-1 draw earlier this week.
In that game, an LA Galaxy II player used a racial slur against a San Diego Loyal player and as a result, the Loyal refused the points and forfeited.
Anyway, expect a Sacramento Republic FC at Phoenix Rising FC game in the first round of the playoffs unless a series of wild events unfurls in this next week.
No Early Goal Conceded
Unfortunately, I didn't have any postgame media access in Reno with any Republic players or staffers, but given the above image, it's safe to say that Sacramento head coach Mark Briggs was pleased that his team didn't start this game in a hole.
For the last three games, the Republic conceded a goal in the first five minutes of the game. Though they didn't lose any of those games, two were tied, meaning Sacramento dropped four crucial points.
Had the Republic garnered those four points, they would be level with Reno at the top of the Group and still have very much to play for in this last week of the regular season.
Instead, Sacramento are looking at being a huge underdog in the first round instead of hosting an LA Galaxy II or San Diego Loyal side.
Unbeaten Streak Nearing Club Record
I know the above image is of Reno fans cheering their team on from outside the stadium, but due to where I was seated, I didn't have a lot of options for photos this game.
Anyway, with the 1-1 draw, Sacramento extended their unbeaten streak to 10 games. The last time, and only time, the Republic have lost all season came way back on July 25 when they traveled to LA and lost 1-0 to the Galaxy II.
The club record unbeaten streak was established at the end of the 2016 USL season when Sacramento went 6-0-5 to end the season before losing on penalties to the OC Blues in the first round of the playoffs.
The Republic will have a chance to tie that streak with a win or a draw at Tacoma Wednesday, but part of the issue the club is facing is that not enough of those games have been wins.
Yes, Sacramento are unbeaten in 10, but they're also winless in three and crucially dropped two points against Tacoma the last time the two teams met.
- Sorry for the relatively short length of the column, but as I mentioned earlier, I didn't get a chance to talk to any of the Republic players or coaches after the game. Also nothing really changed about any of the scenarios following the draw. I would be lying if I said that cashing in my winning sports bets at Boomtown didn't account for at least 50 percent of the reasons why I made this trip.
- For the first time all season, Republic homegrown defender Hayden Sargis didn't feature for Sacramento. I asked a few people what the situation was, but was unable to find an answer. Briggs chose to start Keinan, who scored the goal, and the out-of-favor Tomas Hillard-Arce. Though Hillard-Arce has the most pedigree of anyone on the backline, he hasn't played much in the past two months because he's not great with the ball at his feet. Keinan was replaced by Matt Mahoney late in the second half so it's unclear who the preferred center backs will be come playoff time.
- Lastly, it was great to get back on the road and cover a game. It's been a while since I was able to see the Republic away, but it got me wanting more. Yes, the game sucked and I probably won't remember anything about it in a year, but that's not why I go to games. I go for the trip and for the possibility that something amazing could happen. For this reason, I'm thinking of trying to catch the Republic live in the playoffs. I've never been to an away playoff game before and Phoenix is only like a nine hour drive away.