Sacramento Republic FC v. Oakland Roots SC Preview
Coming off their first loss in seven matches, Sacramento Republic FC will look to get back on track with a win Saturday against Northern California rivals Oakland Roots SC.
It was a tough outing for the Quails in Colorado, losing 3-0 to Switchbacks FC last weekend, unable to get any real rhythm in the match as Hadji Barry and the Colorado frontline put on a show in front of the home fans. Sacramento is coming off a tough June schedule that saw them play five matches in four weeks, three of those consecutively on the road. While the Republic came away with the victories last month, the tight schedule clearly factored in to the club’s performance, not looking like their usual selves in the Rockies.
“It wasn’t us in Colorado,” head coach Mark Briggs said after Thursday’s training. “I feel like June caught up with us to be honest with you, playing in altitude, the guys just looked exhausted. Which happens when you’re playing on two fronts and you only have a small roster, it’s hard. So I understand for the players but it’s very important that we bounce back now and we show what we’re all about.”
One of the areas that was lacking in Colorado was the connectivity between the backline and the midfield on the counter attack, something Briggs had his team work extensively at during training this week. Both the coaching staff and the players believe that controlling the possession around the pitch could be the key to three points on Saturday.
“Yeah, very important. I think it’s one of the things that we’re working on throughout the week, to get the ball up high and get our forwards going. So we worked on that throughout the week, and hopefully we can show it on the game,” midfielder Luis Felipe said.
“To be able to get back home, get in our home stadium – it’s somewhere where the players have been excited to play and produce.”
— Republic FC (@SacRepublicFC) July 8, 2022
That task is easier said than done as the Quails face an Oakland Roots side boasting one of the premier goal-scorers in the USL Championship, Óttar Magnús Karlsson. Second in league play with 11 goals, the Republic recognize the Icelander’s talent but know they can beat anybody if they stick to the game plan.
“He’s a very good player. We’ve got to be aware of his movement, we’ve got to be aware of where he is in the box at all times because if he gets a chance, he puts it away,” Briggs stated. “We’re not doing anything special to handle him. We’ll do our normal setup on how we would normally, and tactically be aware of him, but we don’t need to adapt our whole system for one player.”
“Yeah, listen Oakland are a very good team. And Karlsson is one of the top goal-scorers for a reason, he’s a very good player,” centre-back Dan Casey said. “So we just have to go into the game with our tactics and try and execute them to the best of our ability.”
Sacramento will need every ounce of their abilities this weekend as Conor Donovan is unlikely to play due to a groin injury sustained in the Monterey match. Donovan was seen doing light sprinting off to the side Thursday, telling me that while the injury isn’t considered serious, a timeline for his return is unclear at the moment.
“Your guess is as good as mine,” Briggs said candidly. “He’s got a sore groin and we’ll get him back as fast as possible.”
While one player is unlikely to feature this weekend, midfielder Keko Gontán looks to be on track to play Saturday after missing the previous few matches with a pulled hamstring. A huge boost for the Quails as one of their key set-up men is back in the fold, looking sharp at training this week.
“It’s great to have Keko back training and hopefully we can get him some minutes this weekend. We’ll see how he’s feeling, see if his body is okay and if his body is okay, then let’s see about getting him minutes and getting him back in the mix,” Briggs said.
The first match at home in three weeks for Sacramento, the lads understand the importance of coming out on top in NorCal rival like Oakland, looking to bring that intensity to Heart Health Park this weekend.
“Yeah, it’s intense, the games against Oakland are always fiery. There’s always an extra bit of spice and it’s because we’re local rivals…So we’ve got to make sure we match that tenacity, we’re aggressive and we show that the this is our home field and [it] doesn’t matter who comes here, they’re not going away with anything,” Briggs said.
A second meeting of two this season, the rivals split the first match, 1-1, back in May. But Casey and the Quails believe that the support of the fans could lead the Republic to three points this time around.
“A local derby is always a big game,” Casey said. “We haven’t been home for a while so it’s going to be great to play in front of the fans. The fans have been behind us all year so hopefully they can come out in their numbers and hopefully we’ll get them something to cheer about as well.”
Alongside the match, Republic FC will celebrate its’ annual “Salute to Service” night, honoring local veterans and active service members. The club will honor a special “Captain of the Match” before kickoff, and in partnership with Veteran Enhanced Technology Solutions, host over 1,500 local veterans Saturday.
Kickoff from Heart Health Park is set for 8:00 PM local time. The match will be broadcast live on FOX40, FOX40.com and the FOX40 App, and streaming on ESPN+.