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  • Hector Amezcua /

    Sacramento Republic FC forward Thomas Stewart (10) beats Ashani Fairclough, (4) of the Wilmington Hammerheads to the ball during their game at Bonney Field in Sacramento on Thursday, August 20, 2014.

  • Hector Amezcua /

    Sacramento Republic FC forward Max Alvarez (11) collides with Drew Ruggles, (16) of the Wilmington Hammerheads during gteh first half of their game at Bonney Field on Thursday, August 20, 2014.

  • Hector Amezcua /

    Sacramento Republic FC forward Justin Braun (17) collides with Wilmington Hammerheads goalie Brad Stuver on Thursday, August 20, 2014 during the first half of the game at Bonney Field in Sacramento.

  • Hector Amezcua /

    Sacramento Republic FC defender Mickey Daly (21) defends the ball against Cody Arnoux, (10) of the Wilminton Hammerheads FC during the first had as Sacramento lead 1-0 on Thursday, August 20, 2014.

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    Republic FC 2, Wilmington Hammerheads FC 0

    Highlights: Thomas Stewart scored from just above the box on an assist from Justin Braun in the 15th minute. It was Stewart’s team-leading 12th goal overall and 11th in USL Pro. It also was his fourth in a 45-minute span dating back to Sunday’s 6-1 win over the Orange County Blues FC in which he had three second-half goals. Emrah Klimenta scored an insurance goal in the 76th minute after stripping a defender to push third-place Sacramento (15-6-3) to within a point of the Richmond Kickers and secure a first-round home playoff match.

    Saves of the match: Goalkeeper Dominik Jakubek turned back Samuel Ochoa’s breakaway in the 60th minute, then made two consecutive point-blank saves on the same play, including knocking away a header attempt in front of the net by Ochoa in the 67th minute. He was selected the Player of the Match.

    Streaking: The win extended Republic FC’s USL Pro home unbeaten streak to 10 matches and its USL Pro sellout streak to nine. It also extended the Republic FC’s unbeaten streak to seven consecutive matches. It was the fifth consecutive loss for Wilmington (6-7-8).

    Recognized: Members of the Sacramento Knights indoor team that entertained fans from 1993 to 2001 at Sleep Train Pavilion were honored by Republic FC at halftime, including Republic FC assistant coach Antonio Sutton.

    Next up: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday against the Charleston Battery at Bonney Field.

Republic FC’s Mickey Daly’s fortunes on rise – he’s looking to step up next season

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014 - 10:49 pm
Last Modified: Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014 - 10:41 am

Mickey Daly learned a lot last season playing his first professional soccer gig for the Wilmington Hammerheads on the other side of the United States.

But that didn’t stop the 27-year-old defender from helping Republic FC defeat the reeling North Carolina team 2-0 in a USL Pro match Wednesday night at Bonney Field.

The win extended Sacramento’s league home unbeaten streak to 10 matches. Wilmington lost its fifth in a row and first without 16-year coach David Irving, who did not make the trip to Sacramento and may no longer be the coach. New technical director Carson Porter took his place.

Daly has been one of Republic FC’s most reliable players this season and is improving at such a pace that team technical director Graham Smith and coach Preki believe he has a future at the next level.

Smith, a former coach and team president with the amateur Ventura County Fusion, watched the Sonoma native improve for two seasons with the fourth-division USL Premier Development League team.

“Mickey is steady,” said Smith, a former pro goalkeeper in England. “He’s never going to let you down. We feel he’s good enough to play in Major League Soccer.”

Smith suggested that Irving, a former English Football League and North American Soccer League striker, give Daly a look. Daly signed his first pro contract after a trial and joined a well-established team that had lost to the Charleston Battery in the USL Pro championship match the season before.

“It helped a lot going out there,” Daly said. “There is a big difference between PDL and USL (Pro). It’s a faster pace and more competitive game. There’s a lot of games in a short period of time. It was a great way to get used to the professional level.”

Although he acclimated to the humidity and unpredictable weather in coastal Wilmington and was asked back after the Hammerheads missed the postseason by one point, he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to return to California when Republic FC was formed and Smith signed on as its technical director.

“Sacramento is close to my hometown, close to my family and all my friends,” Daly said. “It was a better fit for me to stay in California than to go back to the East Coast.”

Daly was the second player to sign with Republic FC. He had Smith in his corner, but he still had to win over Preki, who knew little about him.

After Daly’s 26 matches, all starts, Preki is coming around.

“He’s been a nice addition to the club,” Preki said. “Mickey is a guy who comes to work every day. He’s steady. He’s pretty decent with the ball and he doesn’t make too many mistakes.”

Daly did make an error on Sunday when he fouled the Orange County Blues’ Allan Russell in the box. It resulted in a penalty kick that tied the score 1-1 in the 48th minute. But six minutes later a relieved Daly scored off a deflection from Max Alvarez’s free kick that started an onslaught of goals in Republic FC’s 6-1 win.

“That’s one of the things about being a defender,” he said. “One mistake and it can be a game-changer. So it was good to get a goal and get us back ahead.”

It also saved him from Preki’s wrath.

“He got pretty lucky because the ball came his way,” Preki said, smiling. “He knows I wasn’t happy with the penalty kick. But he said he had good karma. He kind of bailed himself out of that situation.”

While Daly’s goal was fortuitous, he showed earlier in the season that he’s got some offensive skills, too. His goal in a 3-0 win over the LA Galaxy II was voted the USL Pro Goal of the Month for April. Teammates Dakota Collins followed in May and Rodrigo Lopez in June.

“It’s pretty cool that three of us get goal of month for the first three months,” Daly said. “It helped put our club on the map and helped get our name out there.”

With the tremendous fan support and the strong showing in Republic FC’s historic first season, it will be hard to leave the team. But Daly’s window to play at the highest levels is closing, and even if Sacramento gets awarded an MLS franchise, the move won’t happen next season.

“My goal has always been to move up, and I’ve been pushing myself to get to the next level, whether it’s MLS or overseas,” he said. “But if nothing else, I can play another year in USL and continue to challenge myself to keep improving and getting better.”

Read more articles by Bill Paterson

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