Tommy Thompson had a goal and assist, Cameron Iwasa scored his 10th USL goal of the season and Wilson Kneeshaw tallied 13 minutes into his debut in leading Republic FC to a 4-0 win over the Portland Timbers 2 on an emotional night for coach Paul Buckle at Bonney Field.
The win, in front of an announced sellout crowd of 11,569, extended Republic FC’s unbeaten streak to five matches and moved Sacramento (11-6-7, 40 points) into sole possession of first place in the Western Conference. Portland drops to 7-12-4 (25 points).
It was the second consecutive match that Republic FC scored a season-high league total of four goals. Sacramento won 4-3 at Saint Louis FC on Aug. 13.
“I was proud of the players,” said Buckle, who learned earlier in the day that his father Johnny had died after a long illness. “I thought we carried on where we left off in the away game in our intent to go and attack. And it made it an open game. Probably a little more open than I would have liked at times.”
Thompson assisted on Mike da Fonte’s header goal in the fourth minute, then beat Timbers 2 goalkeeper Wade Hamilton on a one-on-one from a flighted ball by Danny Barrera in the 48th minute.
For Barrera, it was his USL-leading eighth assist and tied him for the team’s regular-season record, also held by Rodrigo Lopez (2014).
“It was important that Cameron and Tommy and even Kneeshaw stayed inside,” Buckle said. “Because we knew they played a high line. And it’s a dangerous game when you want to play the off-side trap. When you got Barrera, who can pick your pocket and can put through balls like that, it’s a route to goals.”
Iwasa scored on a one-on-one breakaway against Hamilton in the 45th minute after another well-timed flighted ball from Barrera beat Portland’s offside trap.
Iwasa’s shot was blocked by Hamilton near the top of the box, but the ball soared and bounced behind him. Iwasa followed it and pushed the ball across the goal with his stomach.
“They were playing a high line the whole game,” Iwasa said. “I actually was going for the nutmeg but he did a pretty good job of keeping his legs closed. I got a fortunate bounce. I think that was the first goal in my life I scored with my stomach. But I’ll take them any way I can get ‘em.”
Iwasa became the third player in Republic FC history to score double-digit goals during the USL regular season. Tommy Stewart had 11 in 2014 and Lopez had 10 each in 2014 and 2015.
Kneeshaw, a forward from the United Kingdom signed by Republic FC last week, debuted in the 69th minute and scored in the 82nd from a James Kiffe assist.
Republic FC withstood several scary moments in the first half from Portland’s aggressive offense. Midfielder JJ Koval gave away a back pass that resulted in two Timbers 2 shot attempts on Republic FC’s goal, one a deflection and the second a clearance by a back-tracking Koval off the goal line.
Republic FC held a moment of silence before the game for Buckle’s father.
Paul Buckle spent nearly a week in the UK with his father before retuning to Sacramento on Thursday.
“It’s been a hellish week,” Buckle said. “I’m pleased my father has passed because dementia is a cruel illness. It was great to go and see him and say my goodbyes. He would have been proud of the team tonight.”
The players wore black arm bands with the initials “JB” on them in honor of Johnny Buckle.
Buckle said his father would have loved a four-goal win and a game in which there were 28 shots, 16 by Portland.
“He would have been on the edge of his seat at times, but absolutely,” Buckle said. “This is the only club where I’ve been a player or a coach that he has not been to. So that’s disappointment for me that he could never come to Sacramento because he would have loved this. He would have loved this atmosphere.”
Republic FC travels to the Orange County Blues FC on Wednesday in Irvine then plays the Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 next Saturday at Bonney Field.