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Republic FC Emerges on Top of West

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 09/25/16, 7:55AM EDT


Will host Blues in conference quarterfinals after Orange County’s late surge

Photo courtesy Rich Crimi / Tulsa Roughnecks FC

TULSA, Okla. – Facing last-place Tulsa Roughnecks FC in it season finale, Sacramento Republic FC took care of its end in its pursuit of first place in the Western Conference with relative ease as a 4-0 victory at ONEOK Field saw the side strike three times in the first half on the way to victory.

Then, it was time to retreat to a local establishment to watch the rest of the night unfold, and see if the club’s victory would be enough as Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC visited Orange County Blues FC on the west coast.

Needing either a Blues win, or a draw, Sacramento got just what it needed as the Blues surged late to take a 4-0 victory that meant they – and not the Portland Timbers 2 – would visit Bonney Field this Saturday night for the Western Conference Quarterfinals. That kicked off the celebration in Tulsa – and Sacramento – as Republic FC’s players, staff and fans got ready for a run at a second championship in three seasons.

“Number one we're all excited to win the West,” said Republic FC forward Cameron Iwasa. “That was the goal to start the season so to have achieved it is huge. We all know we still have a lot to do to make a playoff run and bring the trophy back to Sacramento.”

Iwasa had double reason to celebrate on Saturday, as his goal – the second of the night for Sacramento – saw him set a new club record with his 12th tally of the season. A bit-player for the club’s first two seasons, the local standout came into his own in his third professional season to surpass the mark set two years ago by Tommy Stewart.

“As far as the goals record, it's an honor to have hit that mark and I'm happy that I've been able to make a contribution towards us winning the West,” Iwasa said. “Overall the team success is where my mind is at, but I'm certainly excited to have had the season I've had personally. Now it's time to focus on scoring some playoff goals.”

Photo courtesy Rich Crimi / Tulsa Roughnecks FC

For most of the night, it appeared that while Sacramento would claim the top spot with Orange County holding a slim lead over the Switchbacks, it would be the Portland Timbers 2 who would visit Sacramento for the opening round of the playoffs. Up 3-1 at halftime, T2 held a two-goal advantage in goal differential with 20 minutes to go in both games.

But then a goal by Arizona cut Portland’s lead to one, and Trevin Caesar added a second for the Blues with three minutes to go. Still, T2 held the upper hand, with both teams sitting on -4 goal differential, and Portland having 38 goals scored to OC’s 37. When Caesar’s second goal of the night arrived as the Blues’ game ticked into stoppage time, though, Orange County gained the edge, with Orr Barouch’s fourth for the Blues acting as an insurance marker against any late Portland goal.

“Fantastic performance from our team,” said Blues Coach Barry Venison after the game. “I'm very proud of our lads for the way they handled an extremely tough situation against a top USL team. But, we have won nothing yet, other than an opportunity to do something really special together.”

Photo courtesy Liza Rosales / Orange County Blues FC

The two California clubs will now square off for a fifth time this season. Sacramento claimed the season series with a 2-1-1 record thanks to victories in the final two meetings between the teams this season, but with the Blues having claimed victory in Sacramento each of the past two seasons, the No. 1 vs. No. 8 matchup offers no guarantees for the hosts.

Still, for one night, the club allowed itself a celebration, with the work to win a championship set to begin when the plane touches down back in Northern California.

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