Real Monarchs SLC, Republic FC’s opponent Saturday night at Bonney Field, is last in the 12-team USL Western Conference with one win.
But that win was historic for the first-year Major League Soccer affiliate. The Real Monarchs (1-6-3, six points) beat the defending USL champions 1-0 on April 29 in Salt Lake City.
That match encapsulates the inconsistent play of a sometimes brilliant and always entertaining Republic FC (6-5-0, 18 points) team that sits one point behind the first-place Seattle Sounders FC 2 in the Western Conference.
Sacramento lost to the Real Monarchs on a goal that bordered between brilliant and a fluke.
Midfielder Fito Ovalle took a shot from 25 yards out in the 68th minute that Sacramento goalkeeper Patrick McLain appeared to have lined up for a save. But halfway between Ovalle’s shot and the goal, the ball hit the back heel of Real Monarchs forward Max Rauhofer and skidded into the the right corner of the net.
“And just before that, we had a great chance with a shot by Ro Ro (Rodrigo Lopez) that the goalkeeper saves,” said Preki, Republic FC’s coach. “They’re a good team. I’m surprised they have just one win. But we weren’t that good that day. Hopefully, we’ll be better (Saturday).”
Republic FC will try to rebound from a 2-1 loss to OKC Energy FC in its last USL match on May 23 in stormy Oklahoma City. Sacramento played most of the game a man down after Lopez was red-carded in the ninth minute. But Preki thought that except for “two mistakes for which we were punished,” his team outplayed OKC even after his star player had been ejected.
“We deserved something out of that game, but we seem to find a way to lose,” Preki said. “It’s frustrating for me to have five losses at this point of year. It’s totally unacceptable.”
Lopez has been suspended for the next three USL matches, but Preki wouldn’t say who will replace the league’s goal leader in the starting lineup.
“Life goes on,” Preki said. “We’re not a one-man team; we’re a team with a lot of good players. Hopefully, we’ll be able to show that in the next few games.”
Sacramento can move back into first place with a win and a Sounders 2 tie or loss Saturday night against the third-place Orange County Blues FC.
No video review – USL spokesman Charlie Corr said that because of a power outage in Oklahoma City that caused camera issues during last Saturday’s match, the league’s discipline committee was unable to review video of the play that led to Lopez’s ejection.
“The three games were issued for violent conduct – an open-handed slap to the face of an OKC player,” Corr said in an email. “The USL Discipline Committee conferred with officials after the match to come to this ruling. ... Normally there would be multiple video angles/footage factored in during this process.”
Most red-card violations lead to a one-match suspension. Corr said Lopez and FC Montreal’s Nazim Belguendouz are the only players this season to earn three-match suspensions.
No loaners – Republic FC technical director Graham Smith held a lengthy online Q&A with team fans on Thursday. Among the questions was if the team expects to get any loan players this season from the San Jose Earthquakes, its MLS affiliate.
“This season, San Jose has had injuries, and they do not have a big roster,” Smith responded. “Consequently, there have been no players loaned to us.”
Last season, several Earthquakes competed for Republic FC, including former area prep stars Adam Jahn (Jesuit High School) and Tommy Thompson (Granite Bay).
Jahn, a huge contributor for Sacramento last season, is now a regular at forward for San Jose. While Thompson hasn’t played many minutes with the parent club, he has been busy with the U.S. national men’s under-20 team. The Americans are competing in the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup.