Photo courtesy Becky Rath / Sacramento Republic FC
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Sacramento Republic FC opened its new era under Head Coach Simon Elliott with a 2-1 victory against San Antonio FC in front of a sellout crowd of 11,569 fans at Papa Murphy’s Park on Saturday night to open the 2018 USL season. Sacramento grabbed the lead just before the halftime break as a pass by Cameron Iwasa picked out Keven Alemán for a first-time finish into the left corner. Three minutes into the second half the hosts doubled their lead as Christian Eiselle put away the rebound from Villyan Bijev’s initial shot, but San Antonio pulled a goal back midway through in the 68th minute as Mikey Lopez curled home a low shot into the right corner. Republic FC continued to hold the upper hand the rest of the way, however, as goalkeeper Josh Cohen made a dramatic late save in stoppage time from San Antonio’s Alex Bruce to earn victory in the season-opener between the likely Western Conference contenders.
45+’ – SAC – Keven Alemán (Cameron Iwasa)
48’ – SAC – Christian Eissele
68’ – SA – Mikey Lopez (Darnell King)
Three Things That Matter:
1. With eight offseason additions in its starting lineup, there was always the question of how Sacramento Republic FC would fare against one of the best returning sides this season in Head Coach Simon Elliott’s first game at the helm. With forwards Keven Alemán and Christian Eiselle both finding the net and goalkeeper Josh Cohen recording some late heroics, Sacramento took a big win to send home the big crowd at Papa Murphy’s Park happy and give the new-look squad a big confidence boost to start the new year.
2. While Alemán and Eissele scored the goals, there was another name that played a key role in both goals that didn’t appear on the scoresheet. Returning playmaker Villyan Bijev's influence was felt strongly until his substitution in the 69th minute as he finished the contest with a team-leading five shots, including three on target, as he consistently looked threatening in the final third while also recording five interceptions in midfield on the defensive side of things.
3. San Antonio almost did enough to get back on level terms in a frenetic close to the game but were kept out by a stellar overall display by Republic FC goalkeeper Josh Cohen. Alex Bruce’s stoppage-time header was the closest the visitors came to capitalizing on their edge in possession, but after this setback SAFC will return home aiming to create more of an attacking edge in the final third in its home opener against Saint Louis FC after recording only two shots on goal in Saturday's contest.
USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Keven Alemán, Sacramento Republic FC – Alemán’s first regular-season goal gave Republic FC a massive boost just before the halftime whistle, and the Canadian international also notched three key passes in a solid all-around display.
Sacramento Republic FC at Orange County SC – March 24, 10 p.m. ET, Champions Soccer Stadium
San Antonio FC vs. Saint Louis FC – March 24, 8:30 p.m. ET, Toyota Field