Knockout football returns for Republic FC this week as the club kicks off the USL Championship Playoffs at Heart Health Park. Sacramento faces New Mexico United for the third time this season – and in the opening round of the postseason for the second year in a row.
With a win or go home match – every detail becomes more important. The postseason spectacle is something nearly every member of Republic FC’s roster has experienced before, with 18 players having featured in the playoffs in their careers.
“Obviously going into the playoffs, the pressure mounts a little bit,” said Russell Cicerone on Thursday. “But every week, we do our same preparation, same type of mentality, same type of work that we put in each week to get us ready for Saturday. And that’s no different this week.”
“Intensity has been very good – sharp sessions,” said Mark Briggs of his club in the lead-up to the match. “The guys are prepared for what they’ll see and what they’ll face. And we’ve just got to make sure we turn up and we do the things that we’re asking them to do.”
Each club enters the match in good form – both claimed three straight wins to close out the regular season. New Mexico bested three strong opponents to secure its playoff berth, and Sacramento secured two clean sheets and a come-from-behind win. It’ll surely be a tough game for each side as a result.
“They are a very good team,” Briggs said of New Mexico. “I think Eric [Quill] has done a fantastic job in galvanizing the group and getting them all on the same page, and they all look like they’re enjoying their football. “It’s a difficult opponent – an opponent that we have to pay the utmost respect to. And we have to make sure that we’re at it and we’re performing in front of our fans.”
When kickoff comes around, the club will have its home fans at its back. At Heart Health Park this season, Republic FC claimed 11 wins, the most in a single season in club history. Sacramento’s faithful have packed their home ground all season – and showed out in force the last month with shutouts in each of the last three home weekend games.
“Our fans that create such an amazing environment every single home game, and to have that backing behind us is extremely important,” Cicerone continued. “We want to work hard for them, we want to work hard to give them the results that they deserve. And we’re willing to do that every weekend.”