Photo courtesy Sacramento Republic FC
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Sacramento Republic FC took victory against Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC as Cameron Iwasa and Villyan Bijev scored second-half goals in a 2-1 victory in the USL Game of Week on ESPN before a crowd of 11,569 fans at Papa Murphy’s Park. Colorado Springs’ AJ Ajeakwa went close to opening the scoring in the eighth minute as he outpaced Republic FC’s defense to a ball over the top only to have his finish smothered by Sacramento goalkeeper Josh Cohen. Ajeakwa threatened again with a flicked header that produced an excellent save from Cohen to keep the game scoreless 10 minutes later, but the visitors took the lead in the 28th minute when Shane Malcolm headed home a corner kick from the left into the right corner. Sacramento came close to an equalizer eight minutes into the second half when Adam Moffatt made a great give-and-go with Iwasa to get into the penalty area, but his finish was pushed wide by Switchbacks goalkeeper Moise Pouaty. The hosts got back on level terms in the 64th minute, however, as a through-ball by Jose Rodriguez released Iwasa to put home a first-time finish from just inside the penalty area for his third goal of the season. Iwasa got in behind the Switchbacks’ defense again four minutes later but was unable to convert as Pouaty closed down the chance, but with 17 minutes to go Bijev made a clever move to elude his marker on the left before scoring from a tight angle. Colorado Springs pushed to get level late on, and Josh Suggs saw a shot tipped over by Cohen in the 87th minute for the visitors, but Republic FC held firm to claim its fourth win of the season.
28’ – COS – Shane Malcolm (Josh Suggs)
64’ – SAC – Cameron Iwasa (Carlos Rodriguez)
73’ – SAC – Villyan Bijev (Cameron Iwasa)
Three Things That Matter:
1. Sacramento needed a second-half comeback, but finally got its first victory against Colorado Springs in the sixth meeting between the clubs in a win that extended Republic FC’s best start to a season and moved the side at least for now to the top of the Western Conference. The resilience Republic FC has shown was again on display after the Switchbacks had the better of the opening half, and while the side won’t want to make a habit of playing from behind the fact that the side has shown it can get results from those situations is a very positive sign.
2. Republic FC got a goal and assist from Cameron Iwasa to give the local standout a team-leading three goals this season, but Villyan Bijev opening his account for the new season to cap off a strong display down the left side might have been the most positive thing for Sacramento’s attack as it came back for victory. Bijev was consistently creative in the contest, even when the final product didn’t arrive in the first half, and the move the 2016 USL All-League selection made to create space for the game-winning goal was the sort of moment that lifts a whole team’s confidence.
3. Colorado Springs looked somewhat in control of the game after Shane Malcolm’s header opened the scoring in the 28th minute, with the Switchbacks creating the better chances as it sought to maintain its hex over Sacramento. But the Switchbacks were curiously blunt in attack in the second half, recording only one shot on goal in the half and that after Sacramento had rallied to take the lead. With a home game on Saturday against Seattle Sounders FC 2 up next, the side will want to rebound quickly and even its record back at Weidner Field.
USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Villyan Bijev, Sacramento Republic FC – Bijev notched the game-winning goal, recorded three key passes and provided a consistent threat in the attacking third to push Sacramento to victory.
Sacramento Republic FC vs. Tulsa Roughnecks FC – April 28, 10:30 p.m. ET, Papa Murphy’s Park
Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC vs. Seattle Sounders FC 2 – April 21, 8 p.m. ET, Weidner Field