After ‘Miracle’ flashback, Republic FC looks to fix mistakes

So is it now the “Miracle at the Stub Hub Center Track Stadium?”

Republic FC’s Rodrigo Lopez couldn’t believe his good fortune Saturday night in Carson.

Sacramento’s standout midfielder/forward was wide open in the box against the Los Angeles Galaxy II in stoppage time when David Estrada sent a perfect ball square to him.

Lopez, who had overlapped Estrada on the play to split a lone defender, struck the ball with his right foot from 3 yards out past goalkeeper Clement Diop to give Republic FC the 3-2 win, the first in two USL matches.

Sacramento will look for its second win Thursday night at Portland.

“I just tried to hit it as hard as I could and as far from him as I could,” Lopez said.

It was Lopez who scored a hat trick, including the winning free kick in stoppage time, to rally Republic FC from a 2-0 deficit in last season’s USL semifinal at Bonney Field to a 3-2 victory over Galaxy II. It is now known as “The Miracle at Bonney.”

“That kind of brought back flashbacks,” Lopez said after practice Tuesday. “But the most important thing is that we found a way to win the game. David had a great ball in, so he basically (deserved) half the goal.”

The only thing different from last season’s heroics is that Lopez scored only the winning goal. He watched from the bench in the first half as midfielder Octavio Guzman buried two penalty kicks that gave Republic FC a 2-1 halftime lead. Galaxy II tied the match 2-2 on a Travis Bowen goal in the 66th minute.

Lopez, who entered the match in the 58th minute for forward Cameron Iwasa, is returning from a groin injury that sidelined him for the USL opener, a 4-2 loss at the Seattle Sounders 2 on March 21. So he got to see Saturday’s match from two perspectives and had one bottom-line assessment.

“We fought hard, but we keep making mistakes that we weren’t making at the end of last year,” Lopez said. “We have such a good team that we need to be better even if it’s the second game of the season. If we want to be another championship team, we’ve got to fix our mistakes.”

Republic FC coach Preki liked the effort, considering starters Justin Braun, Thomas Stewart, Nemanja Vukovic and Max Alvarez are out injured. Republic FC outshot Galaxy II 17-6.

“We created a lot of good chances and a lot of good moments at the top,” Preki said of the first half. “The game should have been over in the first 45 minutes. But it’s a game we made difficult for ourselves. At the end of the day, we found a way to get a result. … We deserved three points.”

Estrada, who played the past five seasons in Major League Soccer, had an impressive game and linked well with Iwasa throughout the first half despite both having been signed on March 20. Each got taken down in the box by Galaxy II defenders, resulting in Guzman’s PKs.

Guzman had another strong performance coming on the heels of his brilliant free-kick goal against Sounders 2.

“Octavio has made improvements from last year tactically, with the ball and his decision making,” Preki said. “He’s a willing worker … and important piece for us.”

Familiar foes – Republic FC had an affiliation last year with Portland, which along with six other MLS clubs this season followed Los Angeles’ lead and sponsored USL teams.

Midfielders George Fochive (12 games) and Steven Evans (18 games), goalkeeper Jake Gleeson (21 games) and defender Alvas Powell (three games) all played on loan last season with Republic FC. Powell and Fochive are with the top club. Evans is with Timbers 2 and Gleeson was one of four players loaned last week by the top club to Timbers 2.

Also on Timbers 2 is former Rocklin High School and Cal star Seth Casiple, a 2015 MLS SuperDraft selection, and defender Harrison Delbridge. He played for Republic FC last season but was not re-signed.

The Timbers 2 won their debut match 3-1 last Sunday over the Real Monarchs at Portland’s Merlo Field. Forward Kharlton Belmar had two goals and forward Rundell Winchester added a third on a diving header. The match drew an announced crowd of 3,667.

“They are good team, an athletic team,” Preki said. “They’ve got a lot of guys from the first team, so they have some experience.”

Call The Bee’s Bill Paterson, (916) 326-5506.

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