Soccer

Soccer notes: Republic FC looks to defend better in second half

pkitagaki@sacbee.com

Republic FC (1-2-0) is on a streak it hopes to break against the Los Angeles Galaxy II (0-2-1) in Saturday’s USL home opener at sold out Bonney Field.

The defending USL champions have surrendered too many second-half goals. Sacramento has allowed eight goals in its three USL road matches, seven coming after halftime.

It’s a trend that started even earlier in friendlies against the San Jose Earthquakes at Bonney Field and the New York Cosmos at Hughes Stadium, which Sacramento lost 1-0 and 3-1, respectively. All four goals came against them in the second half.

“There’s a lot of good things that are happening on the field, but we find a way to throw the games away in the second half,” Republic FC coach Preki said. “We’ve made individual mistakes and collective mistakes and once again we created opportunities to put the game away and didn’t take advantage.”

The 2-1 loss at the Timbers 2 April 2 was particularly frustrating.

Rookie striker Cameron Iwasa gave Republic FC a 1-0 lead in the 61st minute on an assist from Joaquin Rivas, but a minute later Kharlton Belmar found a gap between defenders Mickey Daly and Emrah Klimenta and scored the equalizer from a cross by Taylor Peay.

Then in the 87th minute defender James Kiffe cleared away a ball in the box that dropped near the feet of an unmarked Steven Evans. The former Republic FC loan player scored with a wide-open rocket.

“It’s not one specific guy who messes up for the goal,” Klimenta said. “It’s a team sport, collective sport. We’re family, so we don’t point fingers. We all take the blame for goals that we concede because when the other team scores, we’ve all played a part in it.

“At the end of the day, we have to be more mentally strong. We can’t allow in easy goals like we have. But we’re getting better in practice. We’re going to close those gaps.”

Republic FC could get a boost if USL Defender of the Year Nemanja Vukovic is ready to play Saturday. He has missed all three USL matches while recovering from sports hernia surgery.

Defensive midfielder Ivan Mirkovic said it also should help that the next four matches are at home.

“We try to play the same way when we play away as we do at home, but Bonney Field is something special,” Mirkovic said. “I’m excited to be finally playing in front of our crowd. We have amazing fans. They are always our 12th player.”

Open Cup comes to Bonney – Republic FC will host a second round match of the 102nd Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on May 20 at Bonney Field. Sacramento will play the winner of the May 13 match between the Premier Development League Burlingame Dragons and the National Premier Soccer League Somona County Sol in Santa Rosa. The Dragons are the new PDL affiliate of the San Jose Earthquakes.

Republic FC will look to break a U.S. Open second-round attendance record. The modern-era record is 9,339 set by the Columbus Crew in 2001.

Last year Republic FC defeated the Ventura County Fusion and Fresno Fuego in Open Cup matches at Cosumnes River College before falling 2-1 to the San Jose Earthquakes at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco.

New stadium amenities – In expanding Bonney Field from 8,000 to 11,000-plus seats, the team also has done a major makeover beyond the stadium itself.

Fans can now enjoy music, games, food and drink in The Market at Bonney Field, which is located behind the west side of the stadium. The area will feature rotating selections of food trucks and local brews in the beer garden.

Duckett joins new team – Defender Bilal Duckett, who was released by Republic FC in late March, has agreed to terms with the Charlotte Independence, the new USL expansion team that plays in the Eastern Conference. The Georgia native and former Vancouver Whitecaps draftee played for Republic FC in matches against the Earthquakes and Cosmos.

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

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