Photo courtesy LA Galaxy II
While it may be considered the underdog on Wednesday night in the Round of 16 in the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, Sacramento Republic FC at least has a great affinity for the surroundings it will enter to face the LA Galaxy for a place in the Quarterfinals.
After all, StubHub Center Track & Field Stadium is where the club not only played its first official game in the USL. Repeated trips to Southern California to face the LA Galaxy II – including Sunday’s 3-2 victory against Los Dos in league action – have brought a strong familiarity for the venue.
“I think all that not necessarily works in our favor, but it makes it somewhat easier for us,” said veteran Republic FC defender Emrah Klimenta. “Knowing the locker room, knowing the field, knowing the place, playing so many games here, it obviously helps and plays a part on its own. At the same time, we’re just going to go out there and do what we’ve been doing as of late and hope for the best, but we know the field very well, we know the area very well, we’ve played a lot of key games there, and it’s no different tomorrow night.”
Photo courtesy LA Galaxy II
Republic FC, in fact, has never suffered defeat on the road against the Galaxy II in the series between the clubs at the USL level, going 5-0-2 all-time. Wednesday’s first meeting with the Galaxy’s MLS squad will provide a challenge to that record, but Sacramento’s strong run of recent form has put the team in a confident mood.
“The last couple of games have really proved to everybody – our fans, our families, our friends and ourselves – that we are the team to beat [in the USL],” said Klimenta. “We’ve had our ups and downs, but we’ve fought through it, we’ve stayed together as a team, we’ve believed in what the coaches have been telling us, and at the end of the day it’s how we feel about ourselves. Even though it’s been an up-and-down season we feel great about each other, we feel great about ourselves individually and collectively, and things are starting to finally click and we’re starting to see the potential that we all saw in the beginning of the season finally come to fruition.”
Among that run of form was a 4-1 victory against Real Salt Lake in the Open Cup’s Fourth Round, the club’s first against MLS opposition in the historic tournament. The experience the side brings to the table, with the likes of Republic FC stalwarts Klimenta, James Kiffe and Danny Barrera being joined this year by former MLS players Jeremy Hall and Sammy Ochoa, means the side certainly won’t be overawed.
Photo courtesy Sacramento Republic FC
As in their victory against RSL, the key for Klimenta and his teammates will be to get on the front foot early and make sure they press home any advantage available.
“You’re going to have to go in with a different mentality in the sense that you know you’re playing an MLS team, and that’s obviously in your head, and not to be scared,” said Klimenta. “From the get-go, from the whistle you’ve got to be confident in yourself and in your team and you’ve got to attack and go at these guys.
“The older players that have played against MLS teams in the U.S. Open Cup and in general, I think we’re going to play a big part in the newer players playing the MLS clubs. Help them calm down, help them realize to just do your part, play your game and everything else will handle itself.”
Should Republic FC accomplish that, there’s no telling how far this run could go.
“Nowadays with soccer you never know what’s going to happen,” he said. “Anyone can win, anything can happen, and with this group of guys and how we have been playing lately and the belief we have in ourselves collectively and individually, we’re pretty confident we can win and we can continue on this Open Cup run that we’ve been on.
“Everybody’s confident, everybody’s comfortable, we’re just going one game at a time not really thinking about quarterfinals or semis or whatever the case may be. I’m really confident that this group of guys will get it done and we’re going to keep moving forward and keep giving our best.”