Opening week is finally here. Match Day 1 takes San Antonio FC on the road to face Sacramento Republic FC at Papa Murphy’s Park for a festive night of St Patrick’s Day football. We caught up with Evan Eyster (you might know him better as @IronPonyChef on Twitter – a truly excellent USL-centric account) from Indomitable City Soccer to take part in a new feature called the Six-Pointer Preview, where we will get the answers to six burning questions about upcoming SAFC opponents. Without further ado – here’s the debut edition as we officially kick off the 2018 season.
- 1 – (RB90) Let’s get this one out of the way. San Antonio and Sacramento are both among current bidders for MLS Expansion, but unlike SA, Sacramento is a current finalist. Is Sacramento getting the next MLS expansion franchise?
(EE) At this point I feel that signs still point to no, but all is not lost. The fact that Cincinnati has not been awarded the bid yet makes me think that in the long run that Sacramento is still the preferred bid of the MLS. I still believe that if someone with exceedingly deep pockets shows up tomorrow wanting to buy an MLS team, it will go to Sacramento as it is far less for the league to wait for with respect to the Cincinnati bid. Nippert stadium while not being a long-term option is a viable short-term one while a stadium gets built. Not having enough money isn’t viable in the long or short term.
- 2 – Chris Christian was a big off-season addition for SAFC. What can you tell us about him as a player and how much are y’all not looking forward to facing him in an SAFC jersey? (We hope it’s a lot!)
While it is never fun seeing a player who used to play for your club to return on a different team, Christian always was a double-edged sword. He had moments of brilliance and is very good with well-timed tackles to break up plays, but at times would get caught out of position in counters against fast strikers and be forced to take a card or hope the keeper makes a great save. If he gets paired with another skilled center back, especially one with speed, he is a solid starter.
- 3 – Aside from losing Christian, what were the other big roster moves for Republic this off-season?
Sacramento went through a large number of roster turnover, as right now they only have six people from their final game last season on the roster. Emrah Klimenta going to the first team LA Galaxy team, James Kiffe to Reno, and Christian to San Antonio took away the entire back line. The final player on the Sacramento back line Elliot Hord is currently recovering from an offseason surgery and will be out for the first few weeks of the season. I don’t want to keep rattling off players, but Evan Newton (starting keeper), Danny Barrera (2017 captain), Sammy Ochoa (2017 leading scorer), Trevin Cesar (2017 second-leading scorer) all are big names that are now gone. The team is going through a rebuild.
A few bigger additions are Cameron Iwasa who used to be the main striker on Sacramento who is back after a season in the MLS where he mostly was shipped down to Swope Park, Josh Cohen the Phoenix keeper who won player of the month in September and Villyan Bijev who was loaned down to Sacramento near the end of the 2017 season by Timbers 2. Those three players living up to expectations will be a big part of how successful the team will be this season.
- 4 – One of the bigger offseason notes for Republic was the parting of ways with former Manager Paul Buckle, who was replaced by Simon Elliott on February 1st. What can you tell us about that change and what have you seen out of the new staff that’s encouraging so far?
Two points that most fans took offense to with the playstyle of Buckle were micromanaging and not keeping consistent lineups from week to week. The first few friendlies have felt consistent though, so I for one am very happy with knowing that the product on the field can be consistent.
- 5 – San Antonio has never lost a season opener – both on the road. In two matches in Sacramento, SAFC and the Republic have played to two draws. Does anyone win this match, and what will be the difference?
Sacramento is 3-1-0 in their home openers all time and 4-0-0 at their current home pitch in the first home match of the season, with the first few home games of 2014 being played at a different location. This to me is a battle between two clubs that have lost key players in the offseason, especially on defense. I think knowing this, both teams will play conservatively, which will lead to few chances. I will go with yet another draw, this one ending 1-1.
- 6 – Tell us something we should know about Sacramento Republic.
Sacramento popped in at #10 on the NBC study of most diverse cities with nine nations represented in their currently signed 20 players. The team has embraced this along with the entire city and that shows in the way the team presents itself which is always unique and a refreshing take. We also are nicknamed the Quails, which is a fun story as that was originally a joke from the team staff released to make fun of how teams overanalyze crests, but the fans like it and the Quails were born (we are still waiting for quails merch).
- 2017 Team Results
San Antonio FC – Finished 2nd in USL West; lost in Western Semifinals to OKC Energy.
Sacramento Republic FC – Finished 8th in USL West; lost in Western Semifinals to Swope Park Rangers.
All-Time History (W-D-L)
San Antonio has never been defeated by Republic FC and leads the all-time series 1-2-0. San Antonio is 0-2-0 in Sacramento.
San Antonio played to a 1-1 draw in Sacramento in July 2017, behind the first USL start for Lee Johnston. A.J. Ajeakwa scored the lone SAFC goal, assisted by Kris Tyrpak.
The Matchup (W-D-L)
San Antonio FC (0-0-0) at Sacramento Republic FC (0-0-0) #SACvSA
Papa Murphy Park
Kickoff 9:30 pm Central Time
Where to Watch:
USL Match Center
- Key to victory
History is on SAFC’s side as they have never lost an opening day match. The returnees need to play their game and the new guys, led by former Republic Defender Chris Christian, need to make a few key contributions. SAFC’s new-look offense is primed to hit the ground running after putting in 5 goals in their final pre-season match of 2018 last weekend. It won’t be easy, but SAFC has built a roster with capable talent to finally get a winner on Sacramento’s ground.
San Antonio FC – 3
Sacramento FC – 1