Sacramento came into their match against Richmond with only three points separating them. A victory would have vaulted the Republic from fourth place in the standings to second, passing LA Galaxy II and drawing even with the Kickers. Unfortunately a poor defensive performance in the second half coupled with a great 30 minute shift by Richmond's Matthew Delicâte left the Republic on the wrong side of a 2-1 scoreline. However, a 1-0 win against Charlotte lifted them into third place overall but still 3 points behind the Kickers.
Alvas Powell, who has been the first choice right back since arriving last month, was not available against Richmond. In fact, he did not make the trip out east at all due to concerns with some soreness in his right leg. It is likely that the soreness was a result of an injury he picked up against Orange County Blues. In that match he went off in the 61st minute and was replaced for the rest of the night by George Fochive.
Fochive impressed enough at right back to be selected to fill in for Powell once again against Richmond. He started and went 74 until he was forced off with an injury. His move to the back four from his usual spot in central midfield necessitated a bit of a change from Coach Preki''s preferred pairing. Gilberto, a Brazilian defensive midfielder who has largely failed to live up to the initial high praise of Technical Director Graham Smith, was selected to partner Ivan Mirković.
While moving Fochive to the back four may have changed the look of the midfield, it did not do too much to change the look of the defense. He may offer less going forward in one-on-one situations than the speedy Powell, but Fochive was still able to get forward at times and serve in some good crosses. One example of what he offers came in the 59th minute.
A diagonal ball into space by rookie midfielder Octavio Guzman gave Fochive the space he needed to pick out Adam Jahn and Justin Braun crashing into the box.
If not for Jahn missing the ball, Fochive could have provided an assist in just his second game as a fullback. The cross could have been better, it actually seemed to be intended for Braun's head. But from a player who is used to sitting in the middle of the field it was still a good one. In fact, his crosses during the Richmond match were on par with, if not better than many of Powell's.
Fochive was not a defensive liability in his adopted position either. In fact, because he did not venture forward as often as Powell normally does he provided a bit more defensive strength. Something that Fochive does not have, however, is Powell's recovery speed.
But even without that he was still able to make some good defensive plays. His best one of the night was in the 65th minute, just under 10 minutes before an injury ended his night. Fochive made two good plays in this sequence.
The first is when he closed down Richmond's George Davis and forced him into turn and make a backwards pass away from pressure.
The second comes right after when he recovers in time to make a fantastic tackle on another Richmond player who received a pass with space in front of him. Fochive does well to recover so quickly, although he is helped by the player's poor first touch. The tackle he made is a good one, clean and strong.
To finish off the sequence he makes a simple pass to Octavio Guzman, who is able to turn and start moving the ball up the field.
Unfortunately Fochive's night ended in the 74th minute when a fifty-fifty challenge for a loose ball in midfield went wrong. He came in upright to kick the ball away, while Luke Vercollone came sliding in to get the ball. Fochive's foot hit Vercollone's knee hard and he went down holding his right knee. He was later listed as having a right knee sprain and was unavailable for selection against Charlotte.
Jake Gleeson was available for both the Richmond and the Charlotte matches and started in both.
He played well for most of the game against the Kickers and claimed just about every ball that came into his box. Much of the Richmond attack came in the form of crosses into the box, especially in the first half. Gleeson was able to get to just about every single one of them before the intended targets, sometimes taking the ball almost right of the head of a Kickers player.
He did not cover himself in glory on the two goals scored by though.
The first goal was a one-on-one situation and he did not put himself in the best position to make a save. Instead of rushing out toward Delicâte in order to cut down on the time and space he had to work with, Gleeson stranded himself at the penalty spot. His flailing attempt to save Delicâte's shot came too late and it went past him into the net.
On the second goal he was beaten at his own near post by Delicâte, although more blame could be laid at the feet of Mickey Daly. The fact of the matter is that neither of them reacted to Delicâte's near post run quickly enough and that ended up costing them the chance to walk out of City Stadium with a point.
Gleeson played better against Charlotte, as did the Republic defense as a whole. After an early goal by Thomas Stewart, Sacramento played strong defense and protected their lead for the rest of the match. That is not to say that they just put 11 players behind the ball and stopped attacking, just that they chose not to risk another defensive collapse like the one in Richmond.
Gleeson made some fairly routine saves en route to the three points as well, with his best one coming off of a free kick in the 25th minute.
While it is not the best save in the world he showed good reactions in getting down quickly to tip the ball wide. It looks like his view of the initial kick is obstructed by the wall, which could explain the need for the late diving save.
Steven Evans made a short 28 minute substitute appearance for Sacramento in order to help preserve their lead. He did not do anything particularly noteworthy during his shift, just helped to keep possession of the ball and put out any potentially threatening attacks before they became a problem.
After the Charlotte match Gleeson commented on the improved defensive performance, saying "I think that we put out a lot of fires early and limited the counter attack, both things we did not do before."
Sacramento's next match is against the undefeated, league leading Orlando City SC on Thrusday the 17th. The Republic will try to be the first team to take three points from what has been, for the most part, the gigantic purple steamroller that has been the Lions this season.
To see if they can pull it off you can tune in to the YouTube stream at 7:30 PT.
And as always you can (and should) visit Reckless Challenge for more in depth coverage of Sacramento Republic FC and USL PRO as a whole.