If there is one team that has frustrated Republic FC this season, it’s OKC Energy FC.
Also a first-year expansion team, Energy FC is the only USL Pro squad to twice beat Sacramento – both times by 2-0 scores in Oklahoma City.
Republic FC (12-6-3) hopes to end that streak when Energy FC (8-8-5) plays tonight at sold-out Bonney Field, a match that will start at 8 p.m. because of heat concerns.
Sacramento also will try to extend its USL Pro home unbeaten streak to nine matches.
Despite the scores in the previous two contests, Republic FC coach Preki wouldn’t concede that his squad lost to the better team.
“We totally outplayed them in both games, but we found ourselves on the wrong side of things,” Preki said. “But that’s football. You don’t always get what you deserve.”
In the first meeting, a brief dust-up in front of the Energy FC goal led to the ejection of Republic FC’s Ivan Mirkovic in the 31st minute of a scoreless game. Sacramento played the rest of the match a man down.
Despite outshooting its opponent 10-6 and taking seven corner kicks to the Energy FC’s two in the next match, Republic FC again failed to find the net.
Jonathan Kempin, an up-and-coming United States goalkeeper, earned the shutouts in both matches, though he is now back with Sporting Kansas City.
“It was frustrating losing to that team,” said Republic FC backup goalkeeper Dominik Jakubek, who played in both matches in place of injured starter Jake Gleeson. “They are not better than us. Once we get on a real soccer field and not playing on a tackle box like they have out there – their field is smaller than Hughes Stadium – then we can see what our team can do. I have full confidence we are going to put on a good performance.”
Energy FC comes into the match having gone 5-1-3 after starting the season 3-7-2 under first-year coach Jimmy Nielsen, the former Major League Soccer goalkeeper who retired after helping Sporting Kansas City win the MLS Cup championship on penalty kicks last season.
There’s plenty at stake for both teams tonight.
With 39 points, Republic FC is in third place – two points in front of the fourth-place LA Galaxy II (37). Sacramento trails second-place Richmond by six points, although the Kickers have played one more match.
Energy FC is seventh (29 points) but with five teams within close striking distance. The top eight teams advance to the playoffs.
“Now that we’re in third place, we’ve got to make sure we don’t give up third place and, hopefully, we sneak into second,” Preki said.
Five of the Republic FC’s final seven USL Pro regular-season matches will be played at home, including another showdown with OKC at Bonney Field on Sept. 4.