Republic FC (0-0-0, 0 pts) look to carry the wave of positive momentum from an action-packed preseason training camp into the 2020 USL Championship regular season campaign that kicks off on Saturday night at home against FC Tulsa.
Mark Briggs’ men have endured a handful of challenging preseason contests and took positive strides in every single one. The club concluded its run of training camp scrimmages with five consecutive wins to close out the preseason -- one of which was against a solid MLS San Jose Earthquakes team, 3-1, and another being a come-from-behind 3-2 win against the 2019 defending USL Championship Trophy Winners, Real Monarchs SLC, who fielded several players from Real Salt Lake’s MLS roster.
SRFC midfielder Villyan Bijev bagged a brace last weekend against Real Monarchs.
The results were comforting to see, but not crucial.
In fact, the most pivotal part of training camp was the opportunity for all Republic FC players, academy members included, to earn precious playing time with the first team and accrue beneficial minutes against some of the top domestic clubs. The boys in Old Glory Red had the chance to see how they stacked up against west coast powerhouses like the 2019 MLS Cup Champion Seattle Sounders FC, established MLS-side San Jose, and the reigning USL champs Real Monarchs.
The USL is clearly taking notice of Republic FC’s positive preseason performances, including the league office that listed SRFC 6thin the entire USL Championship power rankings heading into the regular season. The league also recognized goalkeeper Adam Grinwis as one of the top netminders to keep an eye on in 2020.
Along with Grinwis (Orlando City SC) who signed with the Indomitable Club this offseason, new to the team this year are defenders Ashkanov Apollon (SR Colmar) and Tomas Hilliard-Arce (LA Galaxy II), midfielders Rodrigo Lopez (Veracruz) and Andrew Wheeler-Omiunu (Phoenix Rising FC/FC Tucson) and attacking threat Kharlton Belmar (Nashville SC).
Joining the first team this season after signing their first professional contracts are 17-year-old academy standouts midfielder Mario Penagos and defender Hayden Sargis.
SRFC winger Sam Werner scored one of the teams' six goals last season during the club's 6-0 win at home over Tulsa.
FC Tulsa (0-0-0, 0 pts) is fresh off a recent rebrand from Tulsa Roughnecks FC after a new ownership group stepped in and purchased the midwestern club.
FC Tulsa enters its sixth season in the league and despite the changes in the front office and club’s color scheme, the team’s top players from last year as well as Head Coach Michael Nsien are returning for a redemption campaign following a 2019 season that saw the Oklahoman club finish 16th in the Western Conference.
Of the many new faces listed on the Tulsa roster, midfielder Lebo Moloto and defender Bradley Bourgeois have both been plucked away from Nashville SC and should both make a positive contribution to the club. Over the last five seasons, Moloto has recorded the fourth-most assists in the entire league (27) while Bourgeois previously played for Tulsa in 2017 where he helped to guide his side to the club’s first and only postseason berth.
But the most notable name on the roster is the return of Rodrigo da Costa. The Brazilian playmaker notched nine goals and 13 assists last season (both team highs) and was the only player from a non-playoff team last year to be named to the 2019 Championship All-League Team.
The Indomitable Club has never lost to FC Tulsa and has claimed victory in eight of nine previous contests.
SRFC forward Cameron Iwasa has five career goals against Tulsa.
The last time Tulsa visited Sacramento was the largest margin of victory for the Indomitable Club during league play in club history, 6-0. Both Cameron Iwasa and Stefano Bonomo bagged a brace a piece, earning both strikers a spot on the Championship Team of the Week for Week 16.
Last season during SRFC’s heated playoff push, the boys in Old Glory Red visited a tricky Tulsa team that was in the midst of an impressive run that included three wins in their last six matches. But a streaky Tulsa team couldn’t deny Republic FC a massive road win as Sacramento escaped Oklahoma with a 3-2 win.
Republic FC fans will recognize on the opposing bench the familiar face of Nemanja Vukovic who previously played for the Indomitable Club from 2014-2015. The Montenegrin defender made 56 appearances for SRFC and was a member of the 2014 USL Championship-winning team.
SRFC fullback Jordan McCrary's 29 starts in league play for the Indomitable Club make him the 10th most decorated defender is club history.
Tickets for the match are on sale at SacRepublicFC.com/tickets and be sure to stick around for postgame fireworks immediately following the final whistle. Saturday’s match will be broadcast live on KQCA My58, Estrella TV Sacramento (Spanish) and ESPN+ (Digital). Updates online will also be provided via Twitter at @SacRepublicFC or by following #SACvTUL. To see more matchday information, visit SacRepublicFC.com/matchday-guide
Follow Republic FC on social media.