Outside defenders James Kiffe and Emrah Klimenta have done their share to make Republic FC one of the top defensive teams in the USL.
Sacramento has allowed seven goals in 12 matches this season, the second-fewest goals allowed in the 31-team league. Republic FC also has posted six shutouts.
But Kiffe and Klimenta also are doing their part to wake up a once-slumbering Sacramento offense.
Their crosses are more potent this season, one reason Sacramento is riding a six-game unbeaten USL streak entering Saturday night’s match against the Rio Grande Valley FC Toros at Bonney Field. Kiffe and Klimenta have combined for five assists and two goals, equaling their totals for the entire 2015 season.
When Paul Buckle took over as Republic FC coach last July, he noticed Sacramento’s inefficiency on its wide attacks. Buckle said one reason was the lack of touch on putting balls into the box as well as the failure of forwards to get into the box consistently.
“I said that if we are going to have James and Emrah up high, we need to score from crosses,” Buckle said. “The way to do that is, one, through the delivery into the area, and, two, from the runs into the area. Otherwise, it’s no good for them to be up there. We’re getting that now because we’ve worked tirelessly on it. We’re a lot more dangerous from wide areas now.”
Kiffe assisted on Adam Jahn’s game-winning goal in a 1-0 win over the Real Monarchs on June 8 at Bonney Field. Klimenta’s cross set up Cameron Iwasa’s goal in a 2-1 win Saturday in the rematch with the Real Monarchs in Reno.
Kiffe and Klimenta each had assists (on goals by Danny Barrera and Daniel Trickett-Smith) in Republic FC’s 2-2 comeback draw against the Los Angeles Galaxy II on June 4. Kiffe assisted on Iwasa’s 84th-minute goal in a 1-0 win over Arizona United SC on April 2, and Klimenta had the game-winning free-kick goal in Sacramento’s 2-0 win at Los Angeles on May 7. Kiffe had a late unassisted game-winning goal in Republic FC’s 2-1 victory over the Liverpool U-21s in a May 21 friendly at Bonney Field.
“I think Emrah and I are getting the ball a bit more; I think we’re getting into the attack,” Kiffe said. “We have always gotten service in, but people weren’t always getting on the end of it. A lot of it is our (attackers) are getting on the end of it. They’re making great runs in the box.”
Since a four-match scoreless streak early in the USL season, Republic FC has scored at least one goal in its last six league matches. When U.S. Open Cup and Liverpool FC U-21 friendlies are factored in, Republic FC has scored in 10 consecutive matches. It also went from scoring two goals in its first six league matches to 10 in the last six.
Here come Toros – Republic FC (6-3-3) trails third-place Rio Grande Valley (6-3-4) by one point, 22-21, in the Western Conference entering Saturday’s USL match.
The Toros, based in Edinburg, Texas, are the USL’s first hybrid team. Lone Star LLC, an independent ownership group, handles the day-to-day operations. The Houston Dynamo supplies the coaches and players.
The team is coached by Wilmer Cabrera, the last coach of Chivas USA, the now-defunct MLS franchise, and a former Colombian national team defender.
The Toros are coming off a 3-0 home win over OKC Energy FC last Saturday. But the win was costly as they lost two key contributors for disciplinary reasons. Midfielder Jose Escalante, who is tied for the team lead with three goals, must serve a one-match suspension after receiving a red card against Oklahoma City. Midfielder Jorginho James also will miss the match after receiving his fifth yellow card against Energy FC.
Jahn likely – Buckle said Republic FC is expected to have the services of Jahn for a fourth consecutive game. The 6-foot-3 target forward is flying in from Florida, where the San Jose Earthquakes are preparing to play Orlando City SC on Saturday night, to play on loan for Republic FC. The Davis native had back-to-back game-winning goals against the Real Monarchs.