Sacramento Republic Knock Off Top Of Table San Antonio, Back In Playoff Picture
Sacramento Republic FC had one of their most dominant performances of the 2022 USL season Saturday night, taking down former Western Conference leaders San Antonio FC, 1-0, to rejoin the playoff picture.
The Sacramento faithful have a few reasons to celebrate the victory as the Republic extended their unbeaten streak at home this season thanks to a beautiful header from Douglas Martinez in the 37th minute, supplied by a lovely cross from Keko Gontan off a corner. From there the Indomitable Club controlled the majority of the match as San Antonio were left scrambling for a goal the entirety of the second half, unable to break the backline and goalkeeper Danny Vitiello, recording his fourth clean sheet of the season.
“Two in the Open Cup, two in USL so yeah, not bad,” Vitiello said after the match. “The boys keep on putting great defensive performances [together]. It makes my job a little bit easier and hats off to them.”
The defensive praise didn’t stop there as left wing-back Damia Viader credited his backline for keeping the match in the hands of Sacramento.
“Just the work, the teamwork we’ve done, everybody’s on the same page. We worked for every ball. And as I said they didn’t create much so we were very solid defensively,” Viader said.
The strong defensive performance aside, the match clearly shifted in the favor of the Republic after Martinez scored the breakthrough goal, the 25th in his USL career and a day before his 25th birthday. Head coach Mark Briggs was thrilled with his number nine’s performance post-match, feeling relived to see “Dougie” back on the score sheet.
“It’s huge. To me, Douglas is the best number nine in this league. And a few things haven’t gone for him. Few bounces just haven’t quite gotten his way so far. But tonight … he got in, headed the ball in and we win the game because of his head. So to get him scoring goals again … to get him in a great frame of mind, especially the day before his 25th birthday, is fantastic for everyone,” Briggs said.
Briggs also gave credit to his two playmakers in the midfield, Rodrigo Lopez and Keko Gontan, setting up Martinez for the goal.
“They kept sending one man out to set pieces and we always say to the guys ‘if there’s only one come out … take a short one’ and ‘RoRo’ played Keko. Keko dropped his shoulder and whipped an absolutely fantastic ball into the box. And Dougie just glanced it in,” Briggs added. “Great header from a fantastic ball. Just overall a great goal and a massive three points for us.”
The three points were massive for another reason as the club mourned the loss of Sacramento superfan Randy Brink Saturday who passed away in the final week of May. Brink graduated from McClatchy High School and was a mainstay at all Sacramento sporting events for decades, a big supporter of the Sacramento Republic before his passing.
The club honored the longtime fan with a moment of silence Saturday, along with the players wearing custom armbands of Brink’s initials, having connected with many of them on a personal level.
“Yeah, he was immense to not only our club, like you said, but to Sacramento,” Briggs said. “Everybody knows who Randy is. And it was a sad day when everybody found out the news and the armbands the players wore is because Randy meant so much to this club and the people of this club. So he’s going to be someone that we sincerely miss and we wish his family well.”
The Republic will carry on the memory of Randy throughout the rest of the season as they look to continue their winning ways next weekend when they travel to Michigan to take on Detroit City FC, currently third in the Eastern Conference standings. Kickoff from the Motor City is set for 4:30 PM local time. The match will be available live on Antenna TV 40.2, FOX40.com and the FOX40 App, and streaming on ESPN+.