Wednesday’s Open Cup Round of 32 action saw Republic FC turn in one of their cleanest performances of 2022, shutting out a dangerous Phoenix Rising FC squad at home. The club’s first win over the Arizona side punched them a ticket to the Round of 16 behind an excellent defensive effort and two set-piece goals.
More Defensive Excellence
Sacramento’s back line was excellent for the entire match on Wednesday. The visitors kept pressure on Republic FC throughout the match, tallying 21 shots and 12 from close range, as well as eight set-piece opportunities on corner kicks. But Sacramento dominated tight spaces in the middle and cleared out threats from Phoenix all evening to keep them off the scoreboard.
In addition, the resultant clean sheet was also the third straight shutout performance by Mark Briggs new defensive formation – the combination of Conor Donovan, Dan Casey, and Lee Desmond in the middle with Duke Lacroix and Jack Gurr on the wings. The club has yet to allow a score since, with each player making a tremendous impact in their new roles, and Lacroix and Gurr responding well to more attacking responsibility.
On the Board Early
Luis Felipe’s 30th minute opening score may possibly have been the biggest play of the match, and not just because it got Sacramento on the board. Scoring early set the tone and more importantly made Phoenix play from behind, something they’ve struggled with this season – they’ve won just a single match so far where they haven’t scored first. Sacramento going up 1-0 and putting Phoenix at a deficit defined the approach both squads took into the second half.
“Phoenix wanted the game to become transition. They have great athletes and clinical players,” said Head Coach Mark Briggs after the match. “And I said guys, close the game a little bit… let’s retain possession and make them run. And I thought the guys did a fantastic job.”
Danny Guessed Right
Just before the half, a Phoenix penalty awarded to Greg Hurst looked equalize things for the visitors, and change the match in a big way.
Hurst, fresh off a Week 9 brace against San Antonio, had looked to equalize for his club. But instead, Danny Vitiello’s double save with the forward at the spot kept Phoenix’s momentum from climbing too high entering halftime – the club had put more pressure on Sacramento following Luis Felipe’s opening score. The stop was also the second penalty save by a Sacramento keeper this season, following Carlos Saldana’s stop of Richie Ryan’s attempt from the mark on opening night.