Harry Williams had been a forgotten man for Republic FC in recent weeks.
The 20-year-old forward from Cirencester, England, was a starter before a broken hand and some lineup juggling by coach Paul Buckle forced him into a reserve role.
So it was a huge boost for Williams last Saturday night when he came off the bench in the second half and scored the game-winning goal in the 85th minute to help Republic FC rally for a 2-1 win over the Orange County Blues FC at Bonney Field.
The win extended Republic FC’s unbeaten streak to eight matches and secured Sacramento’s third consecutive trip to the playoffs. Republic FC (13-6-8, 47 points) also remains atop the Western Conference standings.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
It was not only his first goal in two months, it came with his family watching among the announced sellout crowd of 11,569. His parents and two of his five sisters had spent nearly two weeks visiting Williams and were on the eve of returning to England.
“It was great to score the winning goal and to do it in front of my parents,” Williams said. “I felt like I needed it. My performances haven’t been as good as I wanted recently.”
The goal was set up by a quick throw-in from Daniel Trickett-Smith to Elliott Hord, who one-touched it to the unmarked Williams as he charged into the box from the right side. Williams slipped his shot past sliding Blues FC goalkeeper Brandon Miller into the left corner of the net.
It came just seconds after former English Premier League star Carlton Cole had entered the game, momentarily distracting a couple of OC Blues defenders. Williams grew up watching the towering 6-foot-3 forward play for Chelsea and West Ham United.
Buckle said the goal should boost Williams’ confidence heading into Saturday’s match at the Los Angeles Galaxy II (10-7-9, 39 points).
“Now that Harry is back to full fitness, I’m seeing a different player,” Buckle said. “Harry is a big player for us.”
Williams scored his first USL goal against the Galaxy II in Republic FC’s 2-0 win May 7 that kept Republic FC unbeaten against its bitter rivals in Southern California. Republic is 4-0-1 in matches played in Carson the last three years.
“It would be nice to carry on and get another result against them,” Williams said. “We know how big of a game it is with it the crunch time of the season. We want momentum for the playoffs and to finish at the top of the conference, a big result is needed.”
No Donovan – American soccer great Landon Donovan, who announced he was ending his 21-month retirement to return to the Galaxy for the remainder of the season, trained with the Galaxy II players Thursday.
But there is no chance Donovan will play Saturday against Republic FC or Sept. 17 at Bonney Field. USL rosters were frozen Tuesday, making Donovan ineligible to be loaned to Galaxy II for a couple of shots to get match-fit beyond the glare of a Major League Soccer playoff race.
Buckle said his players would have enjoyed the challenge of facing arguably America’s all-time greatest soccer player.
Despite the layoff and Donovan’s age (34), Buckle still thinks he could have an impact as the injury-ravaged Galaxy tries to win the MLS Cup.
“You only need a few weeks to get back into the swing of things,” Buckle said. “I don’t know the in’s and out’s of expectancy or what Landon wants to do, but what I do know is that he is a top finisher. It doesn’t matter if he hasn’t played 10 years. If the ball falls into the 18-yard box, he’ll definitely know what to do.”
Donovan has won a record six MLS Cups and is the league’s career goals (144) and assists (136) leader.