Sacramento's midseason friendly against Atlas was never going to feature many players from the starting XI. But when a fire approximately 500 feet from the Republic's Bonney Field forced the team to reschedule its July 4 league match against OC Blues to just a day after the Atlas friendly the prospect of any usual first team players appearing against the Liga MX team went up in smoke.
Steven Evans was one of the players who benefited from the sudden need to rest the normal starting XI, many of whom could be seen around the stadium in street clothes. While he may have originally played a role in the friendly, the new development saw him start and play the entire 90 minutes in what ended up a disappointing 2-1 loss for the Republic.
While the result was disappointing Evans put on a fairly good performance in central midfield.
He had one particular play that stood out in my mind as a good example of his potential but with a reminder that he is still young and unpolished.
Evans showed some capability at reading the game by reacting to the Atlas player's pass before it is made. While he was unable to make an interception he was able to close down the recipient of the pass fast enough to take advantage of a poor first touch. The tackle he made was fantastic, although it is a little difficult to see with the camera angle changing abruptly. He also did well to keep the ball after he won it, quickly getting to his feet and evading pressure from the player he dispossessed with a bit of skill.
Unfortunately he gave the ball away just as soon as he got possession of it with an attempted long ball for Mawolo "Gabe" Gisse to run onto. The idea was a fairly good one but the pass was not hit well at all. The easier, and arguably more effective, pass would have been to the open Jesus Padilla. Padilla had space all around him and was in a better spot to put Gisse through.
Even worse, the misplaced pass led to Atlas' first goal of the match after a poor decision by a Republic center back (and an admittedly nice finish).
Evans did not dress for the following day's match against OC Blues.
George Fochive was among the players who did though, along his usual partner Ivan Mirkovic. Fochive played all 90 minutes against the Blues, mostly in his normal position as a central midfielder.
While he has yet to open his account with the Republic in either goals or assists he did have some good looks. He nearly scored his first goal in the 34th minute. Adam Jahn laid the ball off for Fochive's late run into the box. Unfortunately he got to the ball a little too slowly and his shot, taken with 3 onrushing Blues players (one pushing him from behind and another coming in with a slide tackle), went wide.
He also had a chance to set up a goal in the 23rd minute after a give-and-go with Emrah Klimenta put him in a good crossing position.
As he has done many times this season with Sacramento, Fochive used quick combination play to get past his marker and into a dangerous spot. It started with a little burst of speed to get separation from pressure and a quick pass to Klimenta on the touchline. Unfortunately his final ball leaves a bit to be desired. It is both too high and too low for an easy finish, even if there was a player to apply one. But while it may not have resulted in a goal, it is nice to see Fochive making things happen when he pushes forward.
Perhaps the most interesting thing concerning Fochive in the OC Blues match was his move to fullback after Alvas Powell was substituted in the 61st minute. Octavio Guzman, a central midfielder and scorer of the game winning goal, was brought on for Powell and Fochive slid into the back four to fill in.
While fullback is not his natural position, Fochive still played it fairly well. He did not offer nearly as much speed going forward as Powell and but made up for it with his skill in helping to keep possession and circulate the ball. His tendency to not adventure forward as much also helped to keep Sacramento defensively sound and cut down on counter attacking opportunities down the right flank.
Powell seemed to be carrying a limp when he was brought off and was walking around gingerly after the match, leading me to believe his substitution was injury related. However, when I asked about a potential injury a few days after the match there was no indication that he was injured. That is certainly good news for fans in both Sacramento and in Portland.
On the subject of good news, Jake Gleeson was back in goal against Orange County and sported a concussion headband after getting a knee to the head last week. The "international super goalkeeper" (quote from Dominik Jakubek, the backup keeper) played fairly well, letting in a single goal and making a few saves along the way. He also came through the match unscathed and healthy, which is certainly good news given how injury prone he has been this season.
The Republic's next matches are Saturday against Richmond and Monday against Charlotte, both away matches. Both matches begin at 4pm local (eastern) time and will be streamed live on YouTube.
For more comprehensive coverage of both Sacramento Republic FC and USL PRO as a whole, please head over to Reckless Challenge.