Ivan Mirkovic scored on a 40-yard shot in stoppage time as Republic FC rallied for two late goals to tie the host Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC 3-3 in a wild USL match Friday night.
The start of the match was delayed one hour and 20 minutes because of lightning and rain.
Colorado Springs had taken a 3-1 lead on two first-half goals by Luke Vercollone, one on a penalty kick, and Chandler Hoffman’s 78th minute goal from a rebound of a blocked Vercollone shot in the box.
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But the momentum quickly turned when Republic FC defender Mickey Daly scored from a corner kick in the 82nd minute and Colorado Springs’ Davy Armstrong was ejected on a red card in the 90th minute, forcing Colorado Springs to play a man down in the four minutes of stoppage time.
Shortly after, a wide open Mirkovic, who was well up the field, served a lofted ball into the box.
It barely missed the head of high-jumping teammate Gabe Gissie, then bounced a couple of yards in front of Colorado Springs’ goalkeeper Devala Gorrick and skipped past him untouched into the net.
It was Mirkovic’s first goal for Republic FC and the defensive midfielder’s first professional goal.
Thomas Stewart, from an assist by Danny Barrera, had put Republic FC ahead 1-0 in the second minute when he found a seam between two defenders at the top of the box and hit an upper corner blast into the net.
But as it turned out that early goal wasn’t going to be a replay of Colorado Springs’ 1-0 win six days earlier at Bonney Field. In that match, the Switchbacks FC scored in the third minute, then bunkered in defensively and prevailed despite taking only two more shots.
This time the two teams combined for 30 shots – 18 by Colorado Springs ‑ and Republic FC goalkeeper Patrick McLain had nine saves. Gorrick had three saves for the Switchbacks FC.
Republic FC overcame a couple of bad miscues in the first half. Vercollone, the team’s captain, scored on a penalty kick in the 21st minute after a handball by defender Nemanja Vukovic in the box. Vercollone scored his 12th goal of the season in the 38th minute from a Hoffman assist after a Republic FC turnover in the midfield.
The draw enables sixth place Republic FC (10-8-4, 34 points) to stay within striking distance of the first place Switchbacks FC (12-7-3, 39 pts) in the tightly bunched Western Conference playoff race.
Republic FC entered the match tied for sixth with the idle Orange County Blues FC (10-8-3, 33 pts). But Orange County could push Sacramento into seventh place with a win at the Austin Aztex on Saturday. Only the top six teams advance to the playoffs.
Republic FC has six regular season matches remaining, three at home and three on the road.