A Bonney Field record crowd of 11,569 may have been getting a little antsy during Saturday night’s Republic FC USL home opener against Arizona United SC.
Republic FC dominated the match from the beginning, but it remained scoreless as time was winding down.
It called back to last season when the team let a top finish in the Western Conference slip away by going scoreless in its last two matches, followed by a 1-0 loss to LA Galaxy II in the playoff opener.
But second-year forward Cameron Iwasa has a knack for the big stage.
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The former Jesuit High School star entered in the 80th minute and scored four minutes later on a nifty assist by James Kiffe to lift Sacramento to a 1-0 win.
“I was buzzing to get on the field,” Iwasa said. “As a sub I wanted to just come on and make something happen. Fortunately I was able to do so. It’s a huge win; three points is crucial.”
Last summer Iwasa scored the lone goal in a 1-0 upset of English Premier League side Sunderland AFC, which ranks as the team’s most impressive friendly victory. It also was Paul Buckle’s debut as coach.
Iwasa’s right-footed blast from the top of the box came after Kiffe made a strong run down the left side and split two defenders. Kiffe laid off the ball a few yards toward Iwasa just as his feet were taken out by an Arizona defender.
“James made a great run down the line and played me in,” Iwasa said. “The defender was late to step, so I cut him on the inside, then just picked a spot and hit it low, hit it hard. It skipped little bit on the wet surface and saw the back of the net.”
The packed house, boisterous all night, went wild.
Republic FC (2-0-0) added new north- and west-side field seating during the offseason to produce the attendance record.
It also extended Republic FC’s USL Bonney Field sellout streak to 27 matches, something that likely will be mentioned when Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber comes to Sacramento on April 14 to assess the city’s readiness for MLS as an expansion franchise.
“Unbelievable,” Buckle said of the crowd. “The noise level was fantastic.”
Before Iwasa’s score, Republic FC peppered the goal throughout the match.
Sacramento outshot Arizona United (1-2-0) 13-2 and had several near misses inside the box and two shots that also found the net. But neither counted, calls that Buckle criticized.
In the 55th minute, Danny Barrera hit a wide open Emrah Klimenta sprinting into an opening behind the Arizona United defense along the right side. Klimenta looked as if he timed his run well and put the ball past goalkeeper Carl Woszczynski. But he was ruled offside.
“When I see Emrah Klimenta, a brilliant move, miles onside, be dragged back and the goal being taken away from Sacramento, that’s disappointing,” Buckle said. “It wasn’t even close.”
In the 36th minute, San Jose Earthquakes loan player Mark Sherrod finished a corner kick with a header past Woszczynski, but it was disallowed because of a foul in the box.
“I don’t see a foul on the goal,” Buckle said. “It’s a perfectly good goal.”
But Buckle was impressed about the resolve of his team and pleased that they were able to post another shutout. Republic FC won their league road opener 1-0 over the Seattle Sounders FC 2 on March 25.
“This is where we raise the bar,” Buckle said. “You saw a Sacramento team that ran from minute one to minute 95. That’s what we’re going to have to do because teams are coming in, sitting in, making it difficult. The biggest thing is we didn’t get sloppy.
“It was a job well done. We deserved to win the game. We attacked, attacked all night.”
Republic FC will play April 10 at the Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2.