Sacramento Republic FC head to Canada this Saturday as they face Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 at UBC Thunderbird Stadium in their fifth road match of the season. The club will be looking to pick up as many points as possible, as the match is the first of another three-match road stretch for Republic FC.
The season started off strong for Republic FC, posting three consecutive wins in a row to kick off the 2017 season, including six points on the road. However, with a heavy travel schedule that clocked in at nearly 7,000 miles, the results turned against Republic FC’s favor. In the last two matches of a three-match road trip, Republic FC went on to record narrow 1-0 losses at Oklahoma City FC and at Swope Park Rangers. Republic FC then hosted Portland Timbers 2 at Papa Murphy’s Park but the fatigue from three matches in eight days looked to play a part, as the club slipped to a 2-0 defeat at home.
“I know we’ve had a tough start to the campaign with the number of away games we have scheduled so early in the season but we have to focus,” said Republic FC Head Coach and Technical Director Paul Buckle. “We worked hard this week in training and the boys have been tremendous. The players have been fantastic this week in taking to heart what we’re looking for in the coming matches.”
Although still early, this season appears similar to the start of the last campaign. In 2016, Republic FC opened the season with a 2-0-1 record before hitting some bumps on the road. A loss to Portland Timbers 2 on Apr. 17, 2016 kicked off a three-match losing streak. Going into the match, exactly like this season, T2 was winless, with their victory over Republic FC being their first of 2016. Republic FC then dropped two more matches before returning to winning ways and going on a nine-match unbeaten streak and claiming the top spot in the USL Western Conference during the 2016 regular season.
The similarities to last season is one of the reasons that despite the results in the last three matches in 2017, the hope of a repeat, or even better, performance of the 2016 regular season is very much alive. The fact the club has been in this scenario before and the belief from Buckle in his squad gives off the feeling that it is only a matter of time before the results once again favor Republic FC.
“We’ve had three results that have been difficult for us, but it’s a long season and we knew these times were going to come,” said forward Wilson Kneeshaw. “Now it’s just the resiliency in the squad now, that we have to show it and come back better.”
Buckle and his technical staff spent the offseason looking for talent that would remedy some of the goal scoring issues faced by the club last season. Republic FC signed proven strikers such as Sammy Ochoa, Tyler Blackwood, Trevin Caesar, as well as promising talent like Gabe Gissie and Lamin Suma, to add to the already rich talent on the squad, such as Kneeshaw who joined in August of 2016. His strong squad is one of the reasons why Buckle continues to have a cool head despite the results and looks at what lies ahead with a positive outlook.
“Looking at the next game is the most important thing,” said Buckle. “Obviously we want to bounce back from the disappointment of last week. We have the opportunity against Whitecaps. And yes, it’s going to be a tough game, they always are but we’re more than capable of going on the road and picking up some points.”
Although Republic FC have not found the back of the net in their last three matches, there is no question that the squad has been pushing hard in the final third. Republic FC have dominated the movement in attack in two of their three losses, holding advantage in possession, shots, duels success rate and aerial duels won. The club currently also lead the USL in shots taken.
“We’re putting the ball in some really good areas this season and we’ve done well to get up the field, it’s just the final touches,” said Buckle. “I said this last year, it’s always the most difficult piece, the final third of the field. We just need the understanding with the strikers and the wide players when we’re delivering balls, and what we’re doing with the runs we’re making. I’ve said it before, that’s always the hardest part of the game, to put the ball in the net. We’ve been working hard at that and it’s very, very similar to what we went through last season so it’s about the understanding and we’re working very hard to get that right.”
The road ahead won’t be easy, with Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 just one point below Republic FC on the USL Western Conference table. Following that match, Republic FC will travel to Texas to face current conference leader San Antonio FC before ending the road stretch in Salt Lake City against Real Monarchs SLC.
“I think what we’ve got to do is try and get our game plan into place, into action. We want to make sure that we’re functional on Saturday, both with or without the ball, that we’re really, really on our game,” said Buckle. “That’s the one thing we’ve been focusing on this week and looking at both 18-yard boxes, looking at when we have the ball in wide areas, what we’re trying to achieve. We’ve got to continue being strong defensively and not allow the opposition any gifts.”