After a tightly contested first 15 minutes, Orange County Blues FC had the first real scoring chance of the match in the 21st minute. Midfielder Didier Crettenand played a through ball on the ground for a streaking Akwafei Ajeakwa. The speedy forward was able to run on to the pass as he sent a rocket shot past Republic FC keeper Evan Newton, but the shot blasted off the crossbar and back into play. Ajeakwa would hit the post again in the 28th minute with a dangerous diving header attempt.
Republic FC had their first scoring threat in the 25th minute when captain Danny Barrera was able to wrap his right foot around a volley from 25 yards out. The shot went dipping right on goal but the Blues keeper, Brandon Miller, was able to make a diving save to parry it out of play. Miller made another save on a Barrera shot in the 34th minute on a counterattacking opportunity for the home side.
Midfielder Matt LaGrassa had a solid chance in the 38th minute when he was able to attack up the right wing. LaGrassa found space and sent a low, driven right-footed shot on goal but it rolled right into the arms of Miller as he made the comfortable save.
Didier Crettenand broke the deadlock for the Blues in stoppage time of the first half. Crettenand stepped up to take a free kick after Republic FC defender Chris Christian was called for a handball just outside the box. Crettenand curled a right-footed free-kick up and over the defensive wall and the shot beat a diving Newton as it hit the inside of the post and bounced into the net for the 1-0 lead for the Blues going into the break.
The lead would not last long as Republic FC found the equalizer just after halftime in the 48th minute. Defender James Kiffe was able to loop a through ball over the defense and Barrera found himself running on to the ball with time and space. Barrera took two touches towards goal, forcing Miller to come off his line. LaGrassa was streaking up the right side of the pitch and Barrera slid a perfectly timed pass to him. LaGrassa calmly finished the shot in a wide open net for his first professional goal. The assist was Barrera’s USL-leading ninth on the season and broke the Republic FC single-season record for assists.
Late in a hard-fought second half, Republic FC found the decisive goal in the form of Harry Williams. The second-half substitute received a well-timed drop pass from defender Elliott Hord after he had attacked the right side of the defense. Williams had time to settle the ball in front of him before slotting the shot past Miller for the late match-winning goal.
Former Republic FC midfielder Ivan Mirković nearly equalized for the Blues in stoppage time as he drilled a shot from 30 yards out that went sailing through a hoard of bodies. The players in front of him shielded Newton’s vision and he barely had enough time to recognize the shot before making the crucial diving save on the Mirković shot. The match ended shortly thereafter in a 2-1 victory for Republic FC.
Republic FC clinched a playoff berth for the third consecutive season with the victory. They also extended their unbeaten streak to eight straight matches and maintained their first place standing in the USL Western Conference.
Republic FC will look to continue their winning streak when they hit the road to take on LA Galaxy IIon Saturday, Sept. 10. Kickoff is 7:30 p.m. at the StubHub Track and Field Stadium. The match will be streamed live on SacRepublicFC.com/matchday and YouTube.com/USL.
Scoring Summary: OC – Didier Crettenand 45; SRFC – Matt LaGrassa (Danny Barrera) 48, Harry Williams (Elliott Hord) 85
Misconduct Summary: SRFC – Jeremy Hall (caution) 36; OC – Oriol Cortes (caution) 66, Akwafei Ajeakwa (ejection) 87, Kwame Watson-Siriboe (caution) 88
Orange County Blues FC – Brandon Miller; Andrae Campbell, Kwame Watson-Siriboe, Maurice Pluntke (Brenton Griffiths 79), Matt Sheldon, Oriol Cortes, Ivan Mirković, Mats Bjurman (Max Rauhofer 83), Didier Crettenand (Nikola Ilich 70), Christopher Santana (AJ Gray 71), Akwafei Ajeakwa.
Subs Not Used: Joshua Cohen, Verneri Valimaa, Roy Meeus.
Stats: Shots: 10, Shots on Goal: 3, Saves: 3, Fouls: 15, Corner Kicks: 5, Offside: 4.
Sacramento Republic FC – Evan Newton; James Kiffe, Chris Christian, Mike da Fonte, Elliott Hord, JJ Koval, Jeremy Hall (Harry Williams 60), Octavio Guzman (Daniel Trickett-Smith 63) (Carlos Rodriguez 88), Matt LaGrasa (Carlton Cole 84), Danny Barrera, Cameron Iwasa.
Subs Not Used: Dominik Jakubek, Alfonso Motagalvan, Wilson Kneeshaw.
Stats: Shots: 10, Shots on Goal: 5, Saves: 2, Fouls: 18, Corner Kicks: 4, Offside: 1.