On Friday, defender Emrah Klimenta gave a big thumbs up to Republic FC’s five days of practice in preparation for their critical Saturday night match against the Seattle Sounders FC 2 at Bonney Field.
“We came into practice on Monday focused and ready to go,” Klimenta said. “This whole week has been extremely good. Everybody has been working hard and pushing each other.”
Republic FC (4-4-0) has lost its last two matches to the Orange County Blues FC and Real Monarchs SLC and fallen a point behind first place Seattle (4-2-1) in the competitive Western Conference standings.
The 1-0 loss April 29 at the Real Monarchs was particularly distressing. Not only was the Major League Soccer affiliate winless and in last place at the time, they outshot Sacramento 15-6 and dominated Republic FC in the second half. Only a five-save performance by goalkeeper Patrick McLain kept it close.
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“We’ve talked about those matches, but what’s in the past is in the past,” Klimenta said. “You can’t dwell on it too much. I think were ready for tomorrow, ready for the challenge. We want to show our fans, city and the league that Republic FC hasn’t gone anywhere. We haven’t hit the panic button. It’s a long season.”
No team played more USL matches through April than Republic FC, so coach Preki and heart-and-soul leader Rodrigo Lopez agreed that a combination of fatigue and injuries may have caught up with the team in Salt Lake City.
Defender Derek Foran and midfielder Ivan Mirkovic had to leave the match with injuries and Lopez said that Real Monarchs SLC played much better than their record.
“I thought we fought really hard in the first half and our work rate was the best in awhile,” said Lopez, second in the USL with five goals. “But we didn’t combine well. We wound up chasing the ball all over the field and eventually got tired. Give them credit. They executed very well.”
Coach Preki said Republic FC is still looking “for some type of consistency”, so he has equally mixed feelings about the first eight matches.
“We’ve had to use a lot of different lineups because of the different injuries,” Preki said. “To be fair, a lot of the guys are making their way back. It takes a little time to jell and be on the same page. At the same time, we feel we have a good group here and everyone is capable of coming in and doing the job. That’s what has been disappointing. Some guys who have been given a chance haven’t been able to (take advantage).”
Republic FC is expected to face the Sounders 2 with a healthy lineup, a different scenario than when they played at Seattle in the USL opener March 21.
Lopez, defender Nemanja Vukovic and midfielder Max Alvarez missed the match with injuries.
The Sounders 2 scored four second-half goals by Andy Craven, Sam Garza, Pablo Rossi and Cristian Roldan in the 4-2 win. Captain Justin Braun and midfielder Octavio Guzman scored for Republic FC, both also in the second half.
But after winning their first three matches at home, Seattle lost 4-3 at the Tulsa Roughnecks and 2-1 at the OKC Energy before drawing 1-1 at the Vancouver Whitecaps 2. Seattle rebounded at home to beat the Orange County Blues 2-1 on May 1, with Rossi scoring the game winner in the 83rd minute on a penalty kick.
Forward Darwin Jones leads Seattle with four goals, Craven has two goals and four assists and Rossi three goals and an assist.
Jones is one of nine players on loan from the Sounders’ MLS team.
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