goes for the ball

Dekel Keinan goes for the ball in the Sac Republic FC’s home opener March 7.

Republic FC kicked off the 2020 USL Championship regular season home opener with a 1-1 draw against FC Tulsa in front of a sell-out crowd at Papa Murphy’s Park on Saturday night.

Mark Briggs’ men put plenty of pressure on the visitors and outshot the opposition 16 to 4 on the contest (eight shots on target compared to Tulsa’s two). In 10 all-time matches against Tulsa, Republic FC has never lost to the midwestern club.

“I just said to the players there, we’re one point better off than we were before we started, so that’s a positive,” Republic FC Head Coach Mark Briggs said. “We didn’t win the game like we wanted to. I think we could have been a bit more clinical in front of goal with our final pass, our final shot, whatever that may be, and I think the game would have been different.”

A number of Republic FC players made their Indomitable Club debuts against FC Tulsa, including defender Hayden Sargis and midfielder Mario Penagos who both earned spots in the first team starting 11 for the first time in their young career during a USL Championship regular season game. Both 17-year-old SRFC Academy products signed their first professional contracts with the club in January.

Also debuting in the starting lineup on Saturday night were goalkeeper Adam Grinwis and midfielder Andrew Wheeler-Omiunu, with the former MLS Cup champion finishing the match with a team-high five interceptions.

The match was a physical affair and featured seven yellow cards between the two clubs. Defensively, SRFC held the visitors to just two shots on the entire night.

In the 42nd minute of a feisty first half, defender Hayden Sargis, making his first career USL Championship start, rifled a towering longball to fellow defender Juan Barahona on the left flank. The Salvadoran left back spotted Drew Skundrich at the top of the box and delivered a perfectly placed ball to the midfielder. Skundrich pulled the ball back to his left foot and tucked his shot just inside the bottom corner to lift Sacramento to a 1-0 lead.

Club legend Rodrigo Lopez officially returned to the pitch for Republic FC when the midfielder entered the match as a substitute in the 68th minute for Penagos.

Tulsa equalized in the 79th minute when Lebo Moloto picked out Rodrigo da Costa to level the match at 1-1. The Brazilian playmaker finished the 2019 season in Tulsa as the team leader in both goals (9) and assists (13) and was the only player from a non-playoff team to be named to the 2019 Championship All-League Team.

Defender Ashkanov Apollon, who earned a first team contract after impressing during open tryouts and preseason training camp, made his first career appearance for the boys in Old Glory Red as a second half substitute in the 83rd minute.

Republic FC continued pushing forward creating chances, 10 to be exact on the night, but were unable to snag a late winner against a tricky Tulsa team as the Indomitable Club earned up their first point in the Western Conference standings of the young Championship campaign.

Next up for the Republic FC is a trip to Sin City to take on the Las Vegas Lights FC next Saturday, March 14 at 7:30 p.m.

– William Strome