‘Quake killer’ leads Republic FC into U.S. Open Cup match

When Justin Braun scored on a header in the 42nd minute to give Republic FC a 1-0 lead over the San Jose Earthquakes in last year’s U.S. Open Cup match in San Francisco, a scout watching from the Kezar Stadium press box had a quick response.

“We call him the ‘Quake killer,’” the scout said.

Although San Jose rallied for a 2-1 win, the Earthquakes likely will keep a close watch on the 6-foot-3 forward when the teams meet again Tuesday in the U.S. Open Cup rematch at San Jose’s new Avaya Stadium.

Braun had success against the Earthquakes during his six-year Major League Soccer career.

Playing for Chivas USA and coach Preki, Braun had goals in his first four matches against the Earthquakes, including two game winners. In all, he had five goals in eight matches against San Jose in MLS from 2008 to 2013.

Braun smiles about it now, saying he never had any particular reason for picking on San Jose.

“I don’t remember any of that because it was really a long time ago,” said Braun, who had 26 goals while playing for four MLS teams. “I never thought that I was going to score just because we were playing the Earthquakes. It just happened that way.

“Hopefully, I can get another one (Tuesday). But the most important thing is we go out there and play well, and the team gets a win.”

Republic FC played well against the Earthquakes in last year’s Open Cup matchup, and the team is coming off an impressive 2-1 come-from-behind win at Arizona United SC on Saturday in USL play. Republic FC got second-half goals from Agustin Cazarez and Danny Barrera, and goalkeeper Patrick McLain made six saves as Republic FC ended a three-match winless streak in league play.

Braun was suspended for Saturday’s match for accumulating five yellow cards, but he was impressed with how his teammates played in the 100-plus degree heat in Scottsdale in wearing down Arizona United. He thinks it’s a nice confidence boost entering the San Jose match.

“I think anytime you come off a win and with the quick turnaround, you have a little momentum going your way,” Braun said. “But it’s kind of a win-win for us. We’re supposed to lose, according to the experts, because we are a lower-division team.”

He also doesn’t see it as a must win for Republic FC as it continues to court MLS for an expansion slot.

“I don’t think beating an MLS team is going to make MLS give Sacramento a bid,” Braun said. “(Republic FC) already has proven that they are ready and that it’s just a matter of time.”

5 Justin Braun’s goal total in eight Major League Soccer matches against the Earthquakes

Republic FC coach Preki said he has no idea what to expect from the Earthquakes or coach Dominic Kinnear. San Jose hasn’t played since June 7, so its starters will be well rested.

But San Jose has a key MLS match Saturday at Western Conference-leading Seattle, and Kinnear has a reputation for being indifferent about the U.S. Open Cup.

“I have no idea what he’ll do – you might want to call him,” Preki said. “Tuesday’s match should be fun, and the guys are ready to compete. We expect a hard game.”

Veteran midfielder Rodrigo Lopez is expected to be back in the starting lineup after sitting out the past three matches because of a USL suspension. Lopez, who has a team-leading seven goals, is looking forward to facing a team unlikely to sit back in the defensive end like most of Republic FC’s USL rivals.

“It’s going to be good to play against a team that’s going to try to attack and open up as well,” Lopez said. “They have a good team; it’s going to be a really good match. Last year when we lost to them in Open Cup, I thought we were the better team.”

U.S. Open Cup

  • When: 7:30 p.m. tonight
  • Where: San Jose
Related stories from Sacramento Bee