The Rochester Rhinos set a USL record last year for fewest goals allowed in a season, surrendering 15 in 28 matches en route to the league championship.
Some figured the Rhinos’ record would stand for a long time, but Republic FC is on pace to better that mark, although it’s early in the 2016 USL schedule.
Sacramento has allowed three goals, the fewest in this year’s expanded 29-team league, in seven matches. That projects to 12 goals for 28 matches, though the USL has gone to a 30-game schedule this season.
The effort by Republic FC is even more impressive considering only two of the five back-line players were starters last season.
Goalkeeper Dominik Jakubek was a reserve who saw no USL action until Patrick McLain was injured late last season. Center defender Derek Foran played behind all-USL defenders Mickey Daly and Nemanja Vukovic, both of whom are now with other minor-league teams.
Newcomer Chris Christian, another center defender, played in only seven matches between the North American Soccer League Atlanta Silverbacks and the USL Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC in 2015.
We move a lot in unison. We’re not scared to put our foot into a tackle. We do the simple things, and we work for each other. We cover for each other. ... If there is a save that needs to be made, (Dominik Jakubek) will come up big for us.
Republic FC defender Emrah Klimenta
Only outside defenders Emrah Klimenta and James Kiffe were mainstays in 2015.
But the new group has quickly jelled and helped Republic FC post four shutouts entering Saturday night’s match against the Seattle Sounders 2 at Bonney Field.
Jakubek credits communication, experience and accountability for the strong defensive start. No one’s feelings are hurt when the intense Jakubek gets in their ear.
“We don’t want to get scored on; we don’t want to lose,” says Jakubek, whose 0.43 goals-against average leads the USL. “That’s in our mind the whole time.”
Klimenta credits trust and organization.
“We move a lot in unison,” said Klimenta, who scored the game-winning goal and helped set up the other in Republic FC’s 2-0 win at the Western Conference-leading LA Galaxy II last Saturday. “We’re not scared to put our foot into a tackle. We do the simple things, and we work for each other. We cover for each other. ... If there is a save that needs to be made, (Dom) will come up big for us.”
Which isn’t too often. Jakubek, with seven saves, isn’t listed among the top 30 USL goalkeepers in that category. Opponents have put only 10 shots on frame in 630 minutes.
Jakubek, Klimenta and coach Paul Buckle are quick to note that such superlative defensive stats don’t come without everyone contributing.
Just give us one darn goal. If you give us one goal, it’s going to be tough to beat us.
Republic FC goalkeeper Dominik Jakubek
JJ Koval and Danny Barrera have been the midfield anchors, while Octavio Guzman, now healthy, and Cameron Iwasa cover miles of ground with insatiable desire. Forwards Thomas Stewart, Harry Williams and Mackenzie Pridham aren’t ball watchers when opponents are on the offensive.
“The strikers and the midfielders play a part in it,” Buckle said. “ … We don’t want to be a lazy team. We want to be a team that is hard to beat, and also get that attacking prowess.”
That aspect has been a work in progress. Only one USL team has fewer than Sacramento’s four goals. But two came in Republic FC’s last match against arguably one of the league’s best teams.
“Just give us one darn goal,” Jakubek said. “If you give us one goal, it’s going to be tough to beat us.”
U.S. Open Cup – Oakland-based CD Aguiluchos USA will play Republic FC on Wednesday at Bonney Field at 7:30 p.m. in the second round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
Fourth-division CD Aguiluchos USA scored three times in the second half to beat San Francisco City FC 3-0 in the first round last Wednesday night at Beach Chalet in San Francisco. Sacramento received a first-round bye. If Republic FC beats CD Aguiluchos USA, it will host the winner of the Seattle Sounders U23s-Kitsap Pumas match in the third round on June 1 at Bonney Field.
The Sacramento Gold also advanced to the second round after scoring three second-half goals to defeat the Burlingame Dragons 3-1 Wednesday night at Capital Christian High School. The Gold will play La Maquina of Santa Ana on Wednesday in Lake Forest at 6 p.m.