SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The opening duel between Sacramento Republic FC and Oakland Roots SC more than lived up to the billing as both teams held leads in a back-and-forth contest that saw honors end even after a 3-3 draw on Wednesday night at Heart Health Stadium.
Having claimed an early lead, Sacramento trailed both at halftime and midway through the second half as Oakland’s Ariel Mbumba and Jeremy Bokila gave the visitors the lead, but goals by Cameron Iwasa and Jordan McCrary proved enough before Oakland withstood a pair of big late chances for the hosts to grab victory.
After being held scoreless its past two outings, Sacramento looked to get out to a fast start and in just the second minute Tucker Bone sent a flicked header off a cross by McCrary from the right wide of the left post. The hosts went closer in the 15th minute, this time through McCrary as he darted in at the back post to get onto a cross by Iwasa from the left only for his header to go just wide of the right post.
Republic FC’s early momentum resulted in the opening goal of the game as Iwasa was brought down just outside the penalty area to the left of center. Two short touches on the free kick set up Dariusz Formella for a low shot to the bottom-right corner of the net that curled inside the post to set off celebrations for the Tower Bridge Battalion behind the goal.
It didn’t take long for Oakland to respond, however, as Jesus Enriquez tried to break onto a through-ball into the left side of the penalty area by Mbumba. Enriquez won possession as Sacramento goalkeeper Tomas Gomez came off his line to try and snuff out the danger but saw the ball bounce free, giving Enriquez the chance to slot home from a narrow angle to level the score.
Mbuma then put the hosts ahead five minutes before the break as Oakland held possession in the attack after a corner from the right, and after the ball was switched to the Congolese midfielder near the top-left corner of the penalty area he got past his defender with a quick stepover move to get into the box and unleashed a powerful shot that flew into the upper half of the net.
Oakland almost added a tbird early inside the opening minute of the second half as a corner from the right by Yohannes Harish found Tarek Morad for a near-post header that was parried behind by Gomez, while Sacramento nearly leveled 10 minutes later as a strong challenge by Dan Casey in midfield sent the ball forward for McCrary, whose shot went just wide of the left post as Luis Barraza closed the angle coming off his line to get a piece of the shot. Republic FC pulled level on the hour-mark, however, as a turnover in the Oakland half allowed McCrary to feed Iwasa for a left-footed shot from 20 yards that picked out the bottom-right corner of the net.
The game continued to swing back and forth in the next 10 minutes as Oakland regained the lead in the 66th minute when Bokila nodded home from close range after a shot by Akeem Ward from a narrow angle on the left of the penalty area was parried by Gomez, only for Sacramento to hit back two minutes later as McCrary controlled a cross from the left by Duke Lacroix on his chest at the back post and then fired a low shot back across goal into the left corner of the net.
Both sides had chances in the closing stages as Enriquez had a shot comfortably saved by Gomez before Luis Felipe Fernandes drove a low shot for the hosts that was held by Barraza, but Sacramento almost stole all three points in the final minute as Republic FC debutant Nabi Kibunguchi delivered a beautiful cross from the right for Iwasa to head on target, only for Barraza to make a great point-blank save.
Republic FC once again almost stole victory in the fifth minute of stoppage time as Petteri Pennanen delivered a ball wide to Kibungichi before breaking into the penalty area to head the cross from the right on target, but Morad headed the ball onto the crossbar and behind for a corner kick to deny the final chance in a six-goal thriller.
USLChampionship.com Man of the Match
Jordan McCrary, Sacramento Republic FC – McCrary recorded a goal and assist for the hosts and had three key passes and four shots overall while completing 29 of 36 passes and recording nine recoveries.
SAC – Dariusz Formella (Luis Felipe Fernandes) 19’
OAK – Jesus Enriquez 26’
OAK – Ariel Mbumba (Daniel Flores) 40’
SAC – Cameron Iwasa (Jordan McCrary) 60’
OAK – Jeremy Bokila 66’
SAC – Jordan McCrary (Duke Lacroix) 68’