Soccer

Colorado Springs beats Republic FC to gain first place

Republic FC’s Thomas Stewart, middle, has his shot blocked by Colorado Springs’ Josh Phillips on Saturday at Bonney Field.
Republic FC’s Thomas Stewart, middle, has his shot blocked by Colorado Springs’ Josh Phillips on Saturday at Bonney Field. aseng@sacbee.com

New Republic FC coach Paul Buckle got a taste of what has frustrated Sacramento fans throughout the USL season on Saturday night at Bonney Field.

Dominate possession, out-shoot the opponent by a wide margin – and still come up scoreless at the end of the evening.

Midfielder Rony Argueta scored in the third minute and the Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC held off another Republic FC shooting onslaught to prevail 1-0. It was Buckle’s first USL loss coming seven days after his first league win. It was the fifth time that Republic FC has been shutout in a league match this season.

With Saturday’s win in front of another announced sellout crowd of 11, 442, Colorado Springs (12-7-2, 38 points) moves into first place in the tightly contested Western Conference. Republic FC (10-8-3, 33 pts.) stays in fifth, though now tied with the Orange County Blues FC (10-8-3), which moved up with a 1-0 win over the Austin Aztex on Saturday.

Argueta brought down an Emrah Klimenta clearance, dribbled past Rodrigo Lopez and Ivan Mirkovic and hit a perfectly placed 25-yard rocket into the upper right corner before many fans had taken their seats at the Cal Expo stadium.

“We wanted to come out at the start of the first half with momentum and their goal killed it,” Buckle said. “It was a very good goal. It wasn’t a goal where they opened our back four up. Their boy struck it from all of 25 yards, and it’s gone in the top corner. Sometimes in a game you have to deal with that. It came as a big shock. It gave them something to hold on to.”

The goal allowed the Switchbacks to bunker in defensively, though Republic FC still outshot their opponents 11-3, though only two attempts were on frame. Republic FC also had eight corner kicks to Colorado Springs’ one.

“We just didn’t have enough in the final third to open them up,” Buckle said. “We looked dangerous, but it didn’t come. I can’t blame the players for any lack of effort.”

Sacramento’s best chance to equalize came in the 59th minute when second half sub Kaleemullah hit a volley from six yards out that Colorado Springs’ goalkeeper Devala Gorrick knocked away with a diving save.

Republic FC also was denied a shot at a penalty kick in the 37th minute when Max Alvarez went down twice in the box on almost the same sequence with Colorado Springs captain Luke Vercollone wrapped around him both times. The first time Alvarez was grabbed, the second time he was tripped.

But referee Joe Dickerson didn’t blow his whistle and shortly after issued a yellow card to Lopez for complaining about the no call.

“That was a blatant penalty,” Buckle said. “We needed that to get back in the game….We get that, it’s a different story.”

Colorado Springs jumped ahead of the Seattle Sounders 2 (11-8-3, 36 pts.) and Los Angeles Galaxy II (11-7-3, 36 pts.). the co-leaders coming into Saturday’s matches. Seattle lost 3-0 to the Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Saturday and Los Angeles was idle, though it plays Sunday night against Arizona United SC. Both dropped to third place after the OKC Energy (10-5-7, 37 pts.) defeated the Portland Timbers 2 4-3 on Saturday.

“They’re all crucial, everybody is up against it,” Buckle said of his team’s remaining seven regular season matches and the tight race. “We know tonight was a big game for us.”

Republic FC will play the Switchbacks FC on Friday in Colorado Springs.

Bill Paterson: 916-326-5506, @SacBee_BillP

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