Gabe Gissie is in his second year with Republic FC, but he’s still the baby of the team.
The forward from Liberia is only 18 years old, one reason he had appeared in only six matches and two in the USL this season entering Sacramento’s Saturday night showdown against the red-hot OKC Energy FC at Bonney Field.
But Gissie showed he was ready for the big stage when he entered in the 67th minute for Cameron Iwasa in a deadlocked 1-1 match.
Thirteen minutes later he had his first professional goal, a game-winner to boot, as Republic FC prevailed 2-1 in front of another Bonney Field announced sellout of 11,434.
The win ended OKC Energy FC’s five-match winning streak, the longest in the USL this season, as Sacramento (8-6-1, 25 points) joined the Los Angeles Galaxy II at the top of the Western Conference standings, one point ahead of Oklahoma City (7-3-3, 24 pts.).
Gissie’s goal was a thing of beauty, especially for a team struggling to put the ball in the net while playing against one of the top goalkeepers in the USL in Evan Newton.
Newton had a shutout streak of 427 minutes that ended in the 39th minute when OKC defender Coady Andrews redirected Octavio Guzman’s cross into his own net to tie the match.
But with time winding down, Gissie took a pass from Guzman on the right side, dribbled 20 yards into the box, fired off a shot under his defender into the left corner of the net. It was the one stop Newton couldn’t make in his impressive eight-save performance.
“The winning goal of the game, that’s an awesome way to have your first goal,” Gissie said. “I want to tell Preki, thank your for this opportunity.”
The Republic FC coach thinks he has a gem in Gissie, though he needs polishing.
“He has an unbelievable mentality for an 18-year-old kid,” Preki said. “He comes to work every day. … He’s one of those players who never gives up. He’s young and sometimes he is impatient. We’re trying to make the right decision with him, make sure he grows properly.
“We’re extremely happy with Gabe. He’s a good kid, and he deserved the goal.”
But until that goal, Republic FC continued its trend of dominating possession, getting shots – Sacramento outshot OKC 18-9 – and struggling to put them in the net while having a momentary defensive lapse.
That happened in the 19th minute on a free kick when an unmarked Michael Thomas shot a header across the goal toward Danni Konig, who also was unmarked on the back post and scored easily. It was Konig’s ninth goal, giving him a tie for the USL lead.
“We are making it difficult for ourselves,” Preki said. “We make one mistake and fall asleep on a set piece. … At the same time, we really miss quite a few chances and their goalkeeper makes some good saves.”
Iwasa was a pest, though he couldn’t score in his four shot attempts.
His best chance came in the 33rd minute when Justin Braun back-heeled a pass to him as he broke up the middle into the penalty box. But Newton blocked Iwasa’s shot as he was sandwiched by defenders Thomas and Jacob Vancompernolle.
Republic FC got some energy off the bench not only from Gissie but from new signees Danny Barrera and Kaleemullah Kahn, the Pakistani National Team captain.
“Everybody is thirsty and everybody is hungry,” Preki said. “When people deserve, you got to extend your hand and give them a chance, and that’s what we did tonight.”