Soccer

‘I don’t want to audition’: Republic FC embraces MLS match with U.S. Open Cup at stake

Republic FC’s Harry Williams (9), and Orange County Blues FC’s Andrae Campbell (12) fight for the ball during the second half of the USL Western Conference first-round playoff game at Bonney Field on Oct. 1, 2016.
Republic FC’s Harry Williams (9), and Orange County Blues FC’s Andrae Campbell (12) fight for the ball during the second half of the USL Western Conference first-round playoff game at Bonney Field on Oct. 1, 2016. Special to The Bee

Paul Buckle got what he wanted: The opportunity to host a Major League Soccer team – thanks to Republic FC’s most complete victory of the season.

“That’s the Sacramento side we need to see,” the coach said of Wednesday’s 2-0 win over Reno 1868 FC in the U.S. Open Cup. “You saw fight, you saw energy, you saw goals and you saw chances created and a clean sheet against a good side. I desperately wanted to win the game so we could get an MLS team here. That’s what we want to see. That’s what the ownership wanted to see and we got it. I’m very proud of the boys.”

Sacramento hosts Real Salt Lake of MLS on June 14 at Papa Murphy’s Park in the fourth round of the tournament.

“We’ll be the underdog, which will be lovely,” Buckle said.

Sacramento was in control from the opening minutes Wednesday. Harry Williams and Trevin Caesar each scored, with Caesar getting the assist on Williams’ goal in the 41st minute. Caesar scored in the 59th minute off a through ball from Tyler Blackwood.

In the waning minutes, though, several Republic FC players went down in heaps as three Reno players were whistled for fouls and earned yellow cards. Midfielder Danny Barrera stayed down for several minutes after being rolled up on by a Reno defender, but returned to finish the match.

“It wasn’t a dirty game, but at the end of the game they started to put their foot in. They were late on Chris Christian, too, and that was poor,” Buckle said. “That showed how frustrated they were. They were frustrated that we were in such control of the game. That’s what we want.”

Republic FC is unbeaten in its last four matches, going 3-0-1, including two U.S. Open Cup shutouts. The team hosts the Rio Grande Valley FC Toros on Saturday at 8 p.m. at Papa Murphy’s Park. The Toros are unbeaten in their last three USL matches and have won four of their last six.

Caesar got his fifth start of the season Wednesday, and the speedy striker’s energy has given the squad a much-need jolt. He has two goals and an assist in his last two appearances.

“It’s taken far too long to get that out of Trevin,” Buckle said. “We got it out of him now.”

Caesar is confident Republic FC can handle an MLS side.

“I don’t want to audition for them,” he said. “My coaches here in Sacramento already know what I can bring. ... Real Salt Lake is not going to come here and have an easy game. We’re going to come out with a win.”

LaGrassa returns – Former Republic FC midfielder Matt LaGrassa played much of the game Wednesday for Reno 1868 FC. The Elk Grove native and Pleasant Grove High graduate played the 2016 USL season for Sacramento and notched a goal and two assists in eight starts.

LaGrassa signed with the expansion Reno squad in the offseason. He would have been in the running for a starting job in Sacramento this season.

Reno had just agreed to an affiliation with the San Jose Earthquakes when LaGrassa joined the team.

“(It was) not a financial decision,” he said. “It had to do with what I thought I had to do to jump my career to the next level. I felt this was my best chance to get a look from the next level, and really, that’s what my goal is, to get to MLS.”

Mark Billingsley: editorwriter@att.net, @editorwriter001.

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