This is a brewing rivalry of epic sorts.
Republic FC and the Los Angeles Galaxy II have played a third of the season as new teams in USL Pro.
But during Saturday night’s exciting, back-and-forth and chippy Republic FC 2-1 win over Galaxy II in front of a boisterous and engaged sellout crowd of 20,231 at Hughes Stadium, the intensity level reached a boiling point.
A brief scrum broke out between the teams in the 51st minute with the score tied 1-1 after a couple of players collided going for a ball. Players hit the turf, there was pushing and shoving, and Galaxy II’s Rafael Garcia was ejected with a red card.
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Republic FC took advantage of playing a man up.
After Dakota Collins was knocked down near the penalty area in the 67th minute, Rodrigo Lopez found a seam in the Galaxy’s wall on his free kick, placing the ball neatly in the right corner for the winning goal.
The teams combined for 31 fouls – so bring it on:
Republic FC’s huge crowd following – its three home matches and two sellouts have outdrawn that of 10 Major League Soccer teams – versus Galaxy II’s signature MLS name and mystique.
While they have different goals – Galaxy II looks for long-term success in USL Pro as a development program for its parent club while Republic FC hopes to be in MLS sooner than later – they have several similarities beyond their rookie existence and feisty behavior toward each other.
Republic FC (Preki) and Galaxy II (Curt Onalfo) are headed by former MLS coaches. Both have a number of players with MLS experience as well as players on loan from MLS.
Both also hope to be playing in the USL Pro championship match in late September.
“I definitely see a rivalry taking shape, something similar to the Kings and Lakers,” said defender Mickey Daly. “They’re an MLS team, and we’re trying to get to MLS.”
Although Galaxy II (5-2-3) has the better record, Republic FC (4-3-1) is the only team to have beaten Los Angeles in 10 matches – and has done it twice.
Republic FC beat Galaxy II in resounding fashion 3-0 – Daly’s first-half back-heel goal being the highlight – on April 13 at the StubHub Center’s Track and Field Stadium in Carson. The teams also tied 1-1 March 29 in Carson, the season opener for Republic FC. In three games this season, the teams have totaled 96 fouls.
Preki wasn’t about to anoint Republic FC-Galaxy II a rivalry just yet.
“Rivalries happen naturally,” he said. “Is that going to happen here? Possibly. But for us as coaches, it’s just another game and a good opponent that we are playing. All you hope for is that there is good futbol.”
Preki already has experienced a keen rivalry as coach of Chivas USA (2007-2009). Both teams play at the same stadium but under Preki, Chivas USA could hang with the more star-studded Galaxy back then.
Chivas finished higher in the standings than the Galaxy in two of his three seasons, including a Western Conference first-place finish in 2007.
“There was always an extra edge in those games, and those were fun to be a part of, even when things did not go our way,” Preki said. “There were lots of emotions, lots of commitment from both teams and, obviously, a lot of good futbol.”
Republic FC will have at least one more meeting with Galaxy II. It will be Republic FC’s regular-season finale Sept. 6 at Bonney Field, the new 8,000-seat stadium at Cal Expo.
Republic FC 2, Los Angeles Galaxy II 1
• Momentum swing: Rafael Garcia’s ejection in the 52nd minute with the score tied 1-1. Rodrigo Lopez’s free-kick goal won it 16 minutes later against the short-handed Galaxy II.
• New leader: Thomas Stewart took over Republic FC’s goals lead with his third of the season, a 25-yard volley on a breakaway from a long blast from defender Harrison Delbridge seven minutes into the match.
• Big-time saves: Jake Gleeson made two strong saves seconds apart early in the first half. He knocked away a powerful Galaxy II shot with his hands from the left side, then sprinted to the right and booted away another Los Angeles attempt.
• New face: Although he didn’t dress Saturday, Portland Timbers midfielder Steven Evans has been loaned to Republic FC. He joins Gleeson and George Fochive as Timbers players on Republic FC.
• Up next: Republic FC will head east next weekend for two USL Pro matches. They will play Friday at the Rochester (N.Y.) Rhinos, and then Sunday at the Dayton Dutch Lions in Ohio.
– Bill Paterson
Related information:• Gallery: Sacramento Republic FC beats LA Galaxy II 2-1