SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Sacramento Republic FC scored in each half including a spectacular late strike by Luis Felipe Fernandes that served as the exclamation point on a 3-1 victory against Tacoma Defiance on Saturday night at Heart Health Park to move the hosts level on points with the LA Galaxy II in the USL Championship’s Pacific Division.
Looking to rebound from defeat at home last time out, Sacramento made an ideal start as in the eighth minute Duke Lacroix picked out a good pass for Cameron Iwasa inside the penalty area that saw the veteran forward shuffle past a pair of defenders and clip a finish into the right corner of the net for his seventh goal of the season. Iwasa had a chance to add to the lead for the hosts nine minutes later as he fired a low shot from the right side of the penalty area that Tacoma goalkeeper Christian Herrera got down well to deny at the near post.
Republic FC continued to push, and a pair of chances came to Maalique Foster, with the second in the 26th minute seeing the Jamaican forward send a sliding finish on the half-volley from a cross by Dariusz Formella go over the crossbar. Tacoma then had a chance to level in the 29th minute as Danny Robles’ free kick from the right deflected toward the right corner as it came over a crowd of heads, but the effort was turned away well by Republic FC’s Carlos Saldana.
The Defiance tried again six minutes before the break as a misdirected attempt to clear looped into the penalty area where Samuel Adeniran sent a header on target that Saldana saved, and early in the second half the big Texan forward flashed a shot just over the crossbar as the visitors continued to look for an equalizer. Adeniran then forced a low save by Saldana with a dipping low shot to the right corner in the 54th minute, but around the hour-mark the hosts began to start regaining control and Foster had a chance go just wide of the left post. Six minutes on Republic FC had its second goal of the night when Emil Cuello battled through a challenge just outside the penalty area and then deftly curled a shot past Herrera and into the bottom-left corner of the net.
Tacoma again looked to respond and almost found the net in the 68th minute after Ray Serrano juked his defender on the right to create space for a back-post cross that was headed on target by Alex Villanueva but again beaten away by Saldana. Villanueva wouldn’t be denied four minutes later, though, as after the visitors were awarded a free kick beyond the top-right edge of the penalty area 25 yards from goal he delivered a perfect free kick to the top-right corner of the net that Saldana at full stretch couldn’t keep out.
Fernandes then raised Villanueva’s outstanding finish with one of his own as he received possession inside the center circle and took two strides forward before unleashing a blistering shot from 35 yards into the top-left corner of the net to restore Republic FC’s two-goal lead. The hosts kept their foot on the gas in the closing stages, too, and Patrick Weah was denied a goal in stoppage time by a sliding recovery by Taylor Mueller after Herrera had delivered an errant clearance. There would be not need for a further insurance goal, though, as Sacramento saw out an important three points and continued Tacoma’s recent slide.
USLChampionship.com Man of the Match
Luis Felipe Fernandes, Sacramento Republic FC – Fernandes’ outstanding finish capped a night that saw the central midfielder complete 39 of 43 passes and win 13 of 18 duels and win six tackles for the hosts.
SAC – Cameron Iwasa (Duke Lacroix) 8’
SAC – Emil Cuello 66’
TAC – Alex Villanueva 72’
SAC – Luis Felipe Fernandes 77’