‘Best In The West’ Sacramento Republic Look To Stun LA Galaxy In U.S. Open Cup
Following Saturday’s win against Los Dos, Sacramento Republic FC now face their toughest task of the season, taking on the parent club, LA Galaxy, in the quarterfinals of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Tuesday.
The LA Galaxy are coming off a commanding victory in their last perfermance on the weekend, taking down Austin FC, 4-1, thanks to the offensive firepower of Javier “Chicharito” Herńandez and Co. The Republic know that stopping Galaxy’s attack will be the key to victory Tuesday night.
“They’re a very good team. [Galaxy head coach Greg Vanney’s] an extremely accomplished coach, one of the best in America,” Republic head coach Mark Briggs said. “Very smart teams are very tactical, these teams play fantastic football. So we’ve got to try and manage what they bring. Manage Chicharito, manage Douglas Costa, manage [Julián] Araujo, manage Raheem Edwards, manage Efraín Álvarez, the list continues. But we’ve just got to go there with a belief and hope we can pull off a result.”
The republic have few talented players of their own though, including 17-year-old Rafael Jauregui, who scored his first professional goal against Los Dos Saturday. The recent high school graduate has been featured on the bench in most USL fixtures this season and should be on the bench come Tuesday night as well.
“He’s been on the bench, I think in 80% of the games this year, roughly as a first-team player. He’s not an academy player, he’s a first-team player…’Rafa’ is somebody that has a load of talent, a load of potential, and now it’s about us nurturing it and making sure he reaches the levels that he’s capable of achieving,” Briggs said.
Being the only USL Championship team remaining in the Lamar Hunt competition after defeating the San Jose Earthquakes, 2-0, last month, the match is arguably the biggest in the Republic’s history. The team understands the magnitude of the occasion but is staying focused on beating the 11 men in front of them.
“It’s a big game, but it’s just another game. It’s eleven men against eleven men on a grass field, that’s ultimately what it is,” Briggs explained. “And we’ve got to prepare like we would any other game and go there with the belief we can get a result.”
“It’s tournament play, and we’re just trying to take every game one at a time,” midfielder Matt LaGrassa said. “The team we’re playing is a good one, we obviously have respect for them. We’re going away from home so it’s a bigger challenge but we feel like we’re ready for it. And we’ve obviously already faced MLS competition and done well. So we feel confident that we can get a result.”
And why shouldn’t they be? Riding high on a five-match unbeaten streak, Sacramento feels like they’re the best team in California, at least according to Ferrety Sousa.
“Best in the west,” the midfielder shouted in-between interviews, throwing up the “West Coast” sign to start training Monday.
At first glance, the Galaxy will be seen as heavy favorites being the MLS side, but the players don’t see much difference between them as Rodrigo López thinks the only difference is in the pay and opportunities.
“I don’t see much difference in Galaxy and our team, the only thing that I would say is a big difference is the salaries,” López said with a chuckle. “But for me, I think we have players here that should be playing in MLS and that’s being honest. And I’ve always said that the last few years, USL has had players that probably aren’t getting fair chances.”
Nevertheless, the players and coaches are excited about an opportunity like this, looking to go out there and make history for the organization.
“I think it would be, it’s arguably the biggest game in the club’s history,” Briggs stated. “And I think to try and get a result against one of the best teams in the country would be a massive achievement, a massive accomplishment.”
Greater Sacramento native Matt LaGrassa is one of those players trying to achieve the impossible, understanding the weight of a victory over LA for the Northern California city.
“I think the rivalry between Sacramento and LA stems back to all the [Sacramento] Kings rivalries,” LaGrassa said. “For me personally, I always want to beat LA when I play them and I know how much it means to the city.”
“It doesn’t matter who we play. I think just advancing to the semifinals in a big tournament like the Open Cup is special. Obviously, the rivalry between LA and Sacramento goes a long way so it makes it a little extra special, but we’re ready no matter who it is,” López said.
The match also has a personal anecdote for the Indomitable Club, as well. President and general manager Todd Dunivant played for the Galaxy for most of his career, winning the Open Cup with them in 2005. A lot has changed since then as Dunivant is thankful for his storied career in Carson, but is looking forward to the opportunity to come away with a win against his former club.
“It’s a quarterfinal. It’s an opportunity, our guys are very excited about to put themselves on that stage and, you know, they’ve earned they earned this. So I think it’s gonna be a lot of fun,” Dunivant said.
Kickoff from Dignity Health Sports Park is set for 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, with the match broadcast live on ESPN+.