It was another multiple game week for Sacramento as they faced Arizona United on Saturday and headed to San Francisco's Kezar Stadium for a US Open Cup clash with the San Jose Earthquakes on Wednesday. They came into the matches on a six game winning streak and looked to keep it going with some good performances. However, what they ended up with was a draw at home against Arizona and a loss to the Earthquakes.
While it was a bad week overall for the Republic it was a week of opportunity for the Portland Timbers players on loan there.
With central midfielder Ivan Mirković suspended for both matches (the first due to yellow card accumulation and the second to receiving two yellows in the previous round of the Open Cup), opportunity was pounding at the door for Steven Evans. Up until his suspensions Mirković had started every game for Sacramento and his absence opened up a spot in central midfield next to George Fochive, who has more or less become Mirković's defacto partner since his arrival from Portland.
When Saturday's match came around Evans and Fochive were starting next to one another and I was excited at the prospect of seeing how the two of them would play together.
My excitement would prove to be largely unfounded, as the pair were caught up in a lackluster showing from the Republic. The entire team seemed to be a little rusty, with errant passes and scuffed finishes throughout the game. Evans and Fochive were not immune to these mistakes. In fact, the best example of how the team played for much of the match comes courtesy of Fochive himself.
Nemanja Vuković created space for himself with a quick cut near the endline. Meanwhile, Fochive was open and drifted toward the top of the penalty area waiting for a pass. Vuković hit a perfectly weighted ball for Fochive to run onto and blast into the net but he unfortunately slipped.
After conceding a goal in the second half the home side woke up and began to string together more threatening attacks, including this one that both Fochive and Evans were central to.
While it did not result in a goal, it was a positive moment from both players after about an hour of negatives. Fochive began the move by passing to Vuković on the left wing and making a run toward the penalty box. When Vuković passed back to Rodrigo Lopez, Fochive turned and began a run away from the penalty box in order to bring an Arizona defender with him. Lopez saw the space left by Fochive's run and initiated a give and go with Evans. His first-touch return pass to Lopez cut three Arizona defenders out of the play and put the former Timbers USL player in a position to create something.
Fochive went on to finish the game, playing 90 minutes while Evans was subbed off for Octavio Guzman in the 75th minute.
Evans started alongside Guzman for Sacramento in their US Open Cup match on Wednesday against the San Jose Earthquakes He played well, holding his own against the Earthquakes' duo of Khari Stevenson and JJ Koval. The combination of Evans, Lopez, and Guzman helped the Republic control the center of the field for much of the match but in the end it was not enough to put away their Northern California neighbors.
I would love to go into more detail about the Open Cup match but the stream of the game never really got going, giving me no real way of breaking down specific plays.
Finally, there is good news on the Jake Gleeson front. He was officially off the injured list and available as a substitute on Wednesday. The main question now is if he will be automatically placed into the starting lineup or if backup keeper Dominik Jakubek's recent good form will force him to stay on the bench.
The Republic are back in action this Saturday against OKC Energy, another team in its first USL PRO season. Kick off is at 5:00 pm (PT) and will be available to stream on YouTube.
As always, please check out Reckless Challenge for more comprehensive coverage of both Sacramento Republic and USL PRO as a whole.