Playing on his old college pitch, Cameron Iwasa scored in the 76th minute, and goalkeeper Evan Newton made diving back-to-back stoppage-time saves seconds apart to lead Republic FC over the Orange County Blues FC 1-0 Wednesday night at UC Irvine.
Republic FC (12-6-7, 43 points) moved into sole possession of first place in the USL’s Western Conference, three points ahead of the Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC and Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2. Sacramento also extended its unbeaten streak to six matches with its first win over Orange County in more than two years.
Iwasa hit a 25-yard screamer among a handful of Blues FC defenders and past a diving goalkeeper Josh Cohen to break up what was largely a defensive match. It was Iwasa’s 11th goal, tying Thomas Stewart’s franchise record for regular-season goals. Stewart, now of the Ottawa Fury FC, set the mark in 2014, Republic FC’s inaugural season.
Sacramento scored eight goals in its previous two matches, both wins. But Orange County (10-12-4, 34 points), battling for a playoff berth, played well defensively.
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Most of Republic FC’s best chances came in the first half. JJ Koval and Danny Barrera couldn’t connect in the box on pinpoint crosses from James Kiffe in the 28th and 45th minutes.
On a free kick, Barrera’s attempt to find an open Mike da Fonte on the back post was blocked by the Blues FC’s Kwame Watson-Siriboe in the 40th minute, and Cohen snagged Matt LaGrassa’s 25-yard blast on frame seconds before halftime.
Republic FC took a 4-3-2 lead in what has been an entertaining series. Sacramento lost 1-0 at Bonney Field on April 30 and rallied to a 3-3 draw with the Blues FC on July 10 in Irvine. Republic FC’s last win over the Blues FC was 6-1 on Aug. 17, 2014.
Republic FC next faces visiting Vancouver on Saturday.
Earlier Wednesday, the USL announced the suspension of Blues FC player Richard Chaplow for the match against Republic FC. The former England U-21 international also is suspended for the Sept. 3 match against Republic FC at Bonney Field.
Chaplow was disciplined and fined “for offensive and abusive language directed at another player” during the Blues FC’s game against LA Galaxy II on Saturday.
The USL did not identify the player in its release announcing the suspension. But Robbie Rogers, who was playing for Galaxy II on a rehabilitation assignment from the Major League Soccer side, claimed in a Facebook post that an unnamed Orange County player repeatedly called him “queer.” Rogers is MLS’ only openly gay player.
Chaplow told an English newspaper he was banned for swearing at Rogers and denied calling him a homophobic slur.
“It didn’t happen,” he told the Telegraph. “I swore several times at Rogers for overreacting to a foul, but at no time was the language homophobic.”