Republic FC notes: Rule allows Rodrigo Lopez gets to play now, sit later

A quirky USL Pro rule regarding yellow card accumulations and suspensions has allowed Republic FC midfielder and leading scorer Rodrigo Lopez to play today against the Richmond Kickers in Virginia.

Lopez received his fifth yellow card in Monday’s heated 2-1 win over visiting Orange County Blues FC. Lopez was involved in an on-field altercation that nearly led to a brawl. Republic FC forward Thomas Stewart and Blues goalkeeper Patrick McLain also received yellow cards. The USL Pro has an accumulated yellow card rule that states if a player receives five yellow cards in a season, the player must sit out one game.

But the accumulation suspension takes effect seven days after the player reaches the threshold, USL Pro director of communications Jay Preble said, and Lopez won’t have to serve his one-game suspension until Monday’s game at the Charlotte Eagles. The rule is beneficial to Republic FC (9-5-2) since a win against Richmond (8-1-8) would mean the two teams would each have 32 points, which is good enough for second place going into today’s matches. The Kickers are unbeaten in their past 14 matches.

“I’m happy I get to play against a tough team in Richmond,” Lopez said. “I didn’t want to miss this one and I should have thought about it for a second (against Orange County), but the heat of the game sometimes make you do some things. I picked up that yellow for helping my teammate (Stewart) who was on the ground getting kneed in the back.”

Having Lopez eligible for the Richmond game improves Republic FC’s chances considerably. He has five goals and five assists this season and is USL Pro’s seventh-leading scorer. Charlotte is 5-9-2 and has just 17 points in the USL Pro championship chase so that game seems to be much more winnable with Lopez on the sidelines.

“Since the Charlotte game is exactly seven days after the game in which the accumulation occurred, that is the game (Lopez) has to sit out,” Preble said. “Monday is the first possible day, and they happened to be playing that day. Where the opponents are in the standings has no bearing on things; it’s just the way the schedule plays out.”

Guzman’s winner – Octavio Guzman is in his first pro season and is making his presence known for Republic FC. He has scored twice and has an assist. But his goal Mondaywas his first game winner as a pro in an important 2-1 victory over Orange County Blues FC, which was trying to leap over Sacramento in the standings.

Guzman gathered a loose ball approximately 25 yards out in the third minute of stoppage time Monday and blasted a right-footer between two diving Orange County defenders. Blues goalie Patrick McLain seemed to be screened by his diving teammates and didn’t see the shot until it was too late.

Logging time – Republic FC defender Nemanja Vukovic has played all but five minutes of every USL Pro game this season. That’s 1,435 minutes, or almost 24 hours, and good enough for fifth-most in the league, although Republic FC has played one game fewer than the top four teams.