Late goal nets Republic FC draw with San Antonio FC

Rival USL goalkeepers always seem to bring their A games when they come to play Republic FC at raucous Bonney Field, and San Antonio FC’s Josh Ford was no exception Saturday night.

Ford faced an onslaught of Republic FC shot attempts – 15 in all – and made six saves, including a couple of spectacular stops to keep Republic FC scoreless for 90 minutes.

Included in his masterpieces were a diving save of James Kiffe’s blast from the top of the box in the 55th minute, and a one-handed deflection of Mike da Fonte’s header inside the box in the 38th minute.

Ford even guessed correctly on Octavio Guzman’s stoppage time penalty kick. He got a hand on the ball, but Guzman’s shot was too strong as Sacramento rallied for a 1-1 draw in front of an announced sellout of 11,569.

“Every team that comes to Republic to play here at Bonney Field raises their game,” Republic FC coach Paul Buckle said. “So he was in inspired form, and he saved everything, and he nearly saved the penalty. That’s what we’re up against. It’s nothing new.”

Guzman’s equalizer was set up when Kiffe was fouled in the box by San Antonio defender Max Gunderson.

Second-half sub Mackenzie Pridham barely missed getting the game-winner a few minutes later when his 18-yard shot through three defenders and past a diving Ford went wide of the far post.

“I’ve got a team that never gives in,” Buckle said. “We have a group of fans that keep us going. And we really turned the gas up in the eight minutes of injury time.”

San Antonio’s Milton Palacios and Republic FC’s Matt LaGrassa both left the match after suffering second-half injuries that led to the unusual amount of extra time.

LaGrassa had a gash on his forehead that required three stitches to close but was walking around and talking to fans after the match. San Antonio officials said that Palacios was transported to UC Davis Medical Center with an “undetermined injury.”

San Antonio (6-7-7, 25 points) scored its goal in the 15th minute after a giveaway by Republic FC defender Carlos Rodriguez near the top of the box.

Goalkeeper Evan Newton blocked Sebastien Thuriere’s blast, but Cesar Elizondo punched in the rebound from three yards out.

From there, it looked like Ford was going to be the man of the match until Guzman pulled Sacramento level.

The draw enabled third-place Republic FC (9-6-7, 34 points) to keep pace with the first place Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 (10-5-7, 37 pts.) and the LA Galaxy II. Vancouver drew 1-1 with the Seattle Sounders 2 and the Portland Timbers rallied from a 3-0 deficit to beat the Galaxy II 4-3.

Saturday’s match was the first home match in a month for a Republic FC team that played five consecutive games on the road. Sacramento went 1-2-2 during that swing.

Sacramento will return to the road next Saturday to face Saint Louis FC.

Bill Paterson: 916-326-5506, @SacBee_BillP

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