Republic FC can clinch a playoff berth with a win and extend a USL Pro unbeaten streak to six matches Sunday night against the Orange County Blues FC at UC Irvine.
Republic FC’s last loss in league play came on July 12, 2-1 at the Richmond Kickers.
Since then, Republic FC has beaten Charlotte, Pittsburgh, Arizona and Oklahoma City and tied defending USL Pro champion Orlando City.
While third-place Republic FC (13-6-3) has been hot, the Blues (9-15-0) have been reeling since a 2-1 loss to Sacramento at Bonney Field on July 7. Octavio Guzman scored the game-winning goal three minutes into stoppage time.
Orange County has lost seven of its last eight matches, including 3-2 at the Charleston Battery on Wednesday. That knocked the Blues from the top eight postseason qualifiers with just four regular-season matches left.
The Blues recently brought in several new players in an attempt to end the skid, including Major League Soccer loanee Marco Franco, a defender from the Chicago Fire, and two former MLS players, midfielder Alex Martinez (Sporting Kansas City) and defender Benton Griffiths (Colorado Rapids).
Republic FC has added a new player of its own, defender James Kiffe. A former Big West Conference Defender of the Year at UC Santa Barbara. Kiffe has played this season with the fourth-division Ventura County Fusion. Republic FC released midfielder Chad Bond.
Two stalwarts for Orange County have been 33-year-old Scottish midfielder Allan Russell and defender Stephen Okai, drafted and cut by the Philadelphia Union in 2013. Russell is tied for seventh in the league with 18 points, three behind Republic FC’s Rodrigo Lopez, who’s tied for fifth. Okai has played in all 24 Orange County matches.
Both scored goals when Orange County handed Republic FC its first loss of the season 2-1 on April 12 in Irvine. Republic FC returned the favor 2-1 on May 3 in front of an announced crowd of 17,414 at Hughes Stadium. Thomas Stewart and Adam Jahn had goals for Republic FC. Russell scored for the Blues.