Sacramento Republic FC's Duke Lacroix looks for space during his side's 2-1 comeback victory against Monterey Bay F.C. on Saturday at Cardinale Stadium. | Photo courtesy Monterey Bay F.C.
After the exhilarating high of Tuesday night’s Lamar Hunt U.S. Open victory, added to by subsequently being handed the chance to host next month’s Semifinal at Heart Health Park, it could have been understandable if Sacramento Republic FC suffered a letdown on Saturday night.
For much of the opening half against new NorCal rival Monterey Bay F.C. in the first meeting between the sides at Cardinale Stadium, it certainly felt that way.
“I thought [in the] first half, we looked a little bit heavy legged, a little bit sluggish,” said Republic FC Head Coach Mark Briggs.
Enter Maalique Foster.
Hindered by injuries for much of the season so far, which resulted in him seeing less than 100 minutes of league action in five appearances, the Jamaican delivered when Republic FC needed it most. With two goals in three minutes after coming on as a substitute midway through the second half, including a towering header for the winner with 14 minutes to go, Foster flipped the game on its head, and delivered a fifth consecutive win in all competitions to maintain Sacramento’s momentum of the past month.
“We had a tough game on Tuesday,” said Foster. “And then we come on and have another tough game, a local derby. So, you know, it was kind of tough, but we ran with it, and we got the three points.”
As Briggs was quick to point out, it wasn’t just Foster that delivered off the bench as Sacramento built momentum throughout the second half. Republic FC captain Rodrigo Lopez also delivered, providing the assist on the Jamaican’s opening goal nine minutes after both had been introduced. Then there was Damia Viader, who didn’t put his name on the scoresheet, but according to Briggs provided the visible energy that helped push Monterey Bay back and sustain pressure for the visitors.
Foster, though, was the story of the night. Having scored a late winner for Sacramento on the road against the New York Red Bulls II on May 8 – which prior to the past three weeks had stood as the only road win of the season for the side – the 25-year-old gave Republic FC its first road comeback of the season, and its longest league winning streak since the 2020 campaign.
“He came on and his energy, his movements and his quality in front of goal – I think he showed everyone what he’s capable of bringing into this group,” said Briggs. “[I’m] over the moon for him tonight to come on and score two goals. All the subs were fantastic, but special mention to Maalique, because he's been through hell, and he's come out the other side and won us a game tonight.”
With the chance to close the gap to the top two teams in the Western Conference up next in a visit to second-placed Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC on Friday night, Sacramento’s spirit is shining.
“I think the mentality of the group and the togetherness of the group really showed tonight,” said Briggs. “Our backs were against the wall, and they dug in, they stuck together and they produced another result that gets us three points. [I’m] proud of this group, the work they continue to put in and the attitude they continue to show is second-to-none.”