Republic FC usually practices in the mornings, but coach Paul Buckle had his players out in the near-100-degree heat late Tuesday afternoon at Bonney Field for training and a scrimmage.
It wasn’t the reward players might have expected after beating the Rio Grande Valley FC Toros 3-2 on Saturday at Bonney to extend their USL unbeaten streak to seven games, the second-most in franchise history.
But Buckle wanted to give the players a preview of the conditions they likely will encounter when Republic FC (7-3-3, 24 points) faces Arizona United SC (4-5-4, 16 points) on Saturday night in Peoria, Ariz. Saturday’s projected high is 110.
The temperature has reached 118 degrees in the Phoenix area, and it’s projected to be 104 when the match kicks off at 7:30 p.m.
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“We’ve looked at conditions there, and it’s absolutely boiling,” Buckle said. “I don’t know if there is a rule you get to where you call it off. We’ll have to see. The safety of the players is important. Certainly when you get (above) 100, that’s pretty grueling.”
During Arizona United SC’s 2-1 victory over Saint Louis FC on Saturday in Peoria, officials stopped the match twice to give players water breaks.
Forward Cameron Iwasa is bracing for the heat.
“Last year when we played there, it was 100 at kickoff, so it’s just something you have to deal with,” said Iwasa, who scored the game-winning goal in Republic FC’s 1-0 win over Arizona United SC on April 2 at Bonney.
Seeing yellow – Central defenders Chris Christian and Derek Foran each have been given four yellow cards. The next card infraction will result in a fine and one-match suspension.
Buckle isn’t worried about his defenders being overly cautious when having to make a critical tackle.
“They have to be careful, but we don’t want it to take away from their game,” he said.
Mike da Fonte has started for the injured Foran (hip) in the last two matches and may get the nod again if Foran isn’t ready Saturday. Rookie Carlos Rodriguez appears to be healthy after dealing with a hamstring issue. And Buckle said he can play utilityman Alfonso Motagalvan or midfielder JJ Koval in central defense in a pinch.
Playing to the crowd – FC Cincinnati attracted a USL-record announced crowd of 23,375 for a May 14 home match at Nippert Stadium, breaking Republic FC’s single-game attendance record of 20,231, set at Hughes Stadium in 2014.
And the first-year team likely will top Republic FC’s season record, too.
Cincinnati FC’s attendance for eight home matches is 130,612, and the team has seven more home matches. Republic FC set the season record of 158,516 last season.
The University of Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium seats 25,000 for soccer. The capacity of Bonney Field, Republic FC’s stadium, is 11,569.
LaGrassa loaned out – Republic FC rookie midfielder Matt LaGrassa has been loaned to Tulsa Roughnecks FC, a USL Western Conference team. Republic FC director of football Graham Smith said it will give the former Pleasant Grove High School star a chance to play more in USL matches.
LaGrassa has appeared in five matches for Republic FC this season but just one minute in USL play.