The LA Galaxy II would call it karma.
Los Angeles beat bitter rival Republic FC 1-0 in Saturday night’s USL Western Conference playoff opener at Bonney Field. Bryan Olivera’s penalty kick in the 13th minute would eventually spell the end of the defending USL champion’s season in front of another raucous crowd, an announced sellout of 11,442.
Last year, Republic FC rallied for a dramatic 3-2 win over Los Angeles in the semifinals at Bonney Field, when Rodrigo Lopez scored a hat trick, burying two second-half PKs and a free kick in stoppage time. The stirring victory became known as the “Miracle at Bonney.”
But this time, Sacramento felt the pain of a referee’s call. Republic FC defender Emrah Klimenta was called for pulling down Los Angeles forward Jack McBean in the box in the 12th minute, and Olivera buried the shot in the upper-right corner of the net.
Republic FC coach Paul Buckle thought the sturdy 6-foot McBean sold the PK well, though he agreed that Klimenta made contact.
“He’s gone down, and the refs bought it,” Buckle said. “But you can’t touch somebody in the box…(Emrah) didn’t need to put his arm any where near the player. The player wasn’t even going to get on the ball, the ball was flying out the back. It was a second of madness.”
The Los Angeles win sets up an all Southern California conference semifinal Saturday against the Orange County Blues FC at Yorba Linda High School.
Republic FC ends the season on a sour note because of a late-season scoring drought. Despite getting a number of crosses, free kicks and shots inside the box, Republic FC went scoreless in its last three matches, despite putting up 47 shot attempts.
Sacramento out-shot Los Angeles 15-3 and had a number of excellent opportunities around the net.
Goalkeeper Clement Diop had four saves, including three big ones late as Republic FC pressed for the equalizer.
Buckle said the Galaxy II’s early goal allowed it to sit back, defend and stall.
“Really and truthfully I think we saw a team come again with no real desire to play the game,” Buckle said.
The match was chippy and physical almost from the beginning. There were 28 fouls and six yellow cards.
Several scrums broke out between the two teams, including one after Alejandro Covarrubias put up his arm to try to prevent Rodrigo Lopez from taking a quick throw in. RoRo threw the ball off of Covarrubias’ face. Each were issued yellow cards.
When the match ended, players also had to be separated and some fans threw objects at the Galaxy II players.
Republic FC got a scare in the 48th minute when forward Mark Sherrod went up for a header and Bradley Diallo came from behind and collided head to head with the San Jose Earthquakes’ loan player.
Sherrod, who appeared to be knocked out initially, was down for several minutes. He was able to walk off the field on his own power.
Team officials said he will be re-evaluated in the next few days.
“Mark’s a tough boy,” Buckle said. “It was a case of taking him straight off. The welfare of the player is the most important thing always.”
Despite the disappointing end, forward Justin Braun, Sacramento’s captain who subbed in for Sherrod, said it will only fuel the players for next season.
“We know what we’re capable of when we play well – we’re able to win championships, just like last year,” said Braun who had a couple of shots on frame turned back by Diop and defender Joe Franco. “We had a lot of positives this year...We made the playoffs, which is always a goal of ours. We’re looking forward to next year.”