When Republic FC forward Justin Braun scored in the 67th minute from Rodrigo Lopez’ perfectly placed cross Saturday night against the visiting Real Monarchs SLC, Sacramento appeared to be headed to its first win in 22 days and a chance to move ahead of two rivals in the tight USL Western Conference playoff race.
Sacramento was dominating play both offensively and defensively against another team that came to Bonney Field with the usual plan: Pack the box, play physical and wait for a counter attack.
But there are no easy wins this season at Bonney Field and for some reason not against a team that is last in the Western Conference.
The Real Monarchs took advantage of a Republic FC miscue in the 86th minute to score a goal, earn a tie and send another announced sellout crowd of 11,442 home disappointed.
Real Salt Lake turned a Republic FC throw in by Emrah Kimenta into a turnover and a lightning counter.
Lucas Baldin sprinted up the left sideline, took a through ball from Emery Welshman, and slotted it past goalkeeper Patrick McLain into the right corner of the net.
“I know it’s sour grapes, but when you look at the goal (on replay) it looks offside,” said Republic FC coach Paul Buckle. “It really is a long way off(side), but we have only ourselves to blame.”
He said his team has to learn how to finish matches.
“We’ve got to learn how to be more ruthless,” Buckle said. “We’ve got to learn how to kill the game when we are ahead 1-nil.”
Sacramento out-shot the Real Monarchs 15 to 5 and 8 to 1 in the first half.
Republic FC had several opportunities to get more than just one goal.
Gabe Gissie had a chance for a winner in stoppage time, but his left-footed volley went high.
Republic FC’s best first half chance came in the 35th minute on a cross from Lopez that found the head of Thomas Stewart in front of the goal. But Real Monarchs goalkeeper Eduardo Fernandez was able to knock the ball away.
Stewart had another good opportunity in the 66th minute after Nemanja Vukovic dribbled nearly the length of the field and sent a cross toward the unmarked forward in the box. But Stewart’s shot went inches wide of the post.
“We’ve just gotta be a little more patient, move the ball from the inside out, get out wide, put balls in the box, get runners in the box and that’s how the goals are going to come,” said Braun, who scored his fourth USL goal of the season. “When teams sit like that, it’s tough for us. They play for the counter and it’s kind of been working.”
The tie keeps Republic FC (10-8-5, 35 points) in seventh place, though it moves to within a point of the Tulsa Roughnecks FC (10-10-6, 36 pts) and Orange County Blues FC (11-9-3 36 pts), both losers on Saturday. Republic FC will play Tulsa next Saturday at Bonney Field.
The Real Monarchs (2-13-8, 14 pts.) win the series against Republic FC with a 1-0-3 record.
“It’s kind of frustrating as a team not to be able to walk away with one win from them,” said Braun, a native of Salt Lake City. “Considering where they’re at in the table, it’s disappointing. We should have won some of those games.”
But Braun is still confident that Sacramento will make a strong push in its final five matches. He even thinks the regular season title is still within reach since Sacramento is five points behind the first place OKC Energy FC.
“If we win out I think we put ourselves in a good position,” Braun said “It’s tight up there. It’s not really do or die at this point. There are still a lot of points on the table, and we are confident we can go out and get them.”
They will have to do it the next two games without midfielder Ivan Mirkovic.He received a yellow card in the 60th minute and now has eight in league play. He will miss the Tulsa game and the Sept. 6 match at the Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 while on suspension.