Sacramento Republic FC's Rodrigo Lopez acknowledges the crowd at Heart Health Park after his shootout goal sent the club to the Final of the 2022 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. | Photo courtesy Sacramento Republic FC
It’s the stuff of endless barroom debate.
One shot from the penalty spot to win it all, who’s your player?
Even before Wednesday night, for Sacramento Republic FC fans there was likely only one answer.
“You're writing the penalties down. RoRo was always going to be number five,” said Republic FC Head Coach Mark Briggs. “We knew if we got the opportunity, RoRo would step up.”
The first signing in Republic FC’s history before its inaugural USL Championship season in 2014, Rodrigo Lopez has long been the man Sacramento could count on when it mattered most.
From the Miracle at Bonney in the Semifinals of the 2014 USL Championship Playoffs, when his second-half hat trick capped by a perfectly delivered free kick in stoppage time produced an improbable 3-2 comeback victory against the LA Galaxy II, to moments big and small – on and off the field – no other player has woven himself into the club’s history with more distinction.
Tasked with a potentially decisive penalty kick against Sporting Kansas City goalkeeper John Pulskamp at Heart Health Park, and the chance to make history in the Semifinals of the 2022 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, Sacramento’s adopted son delivered once again, as everyone on hand or watching their screens knew he would.
“What a night again Sacramento,” said Lopez in a video posted to Republic FC’s Twitter account. “That you for everything, thank you for all your support. We felt all your support tonight through 120 minutes, PKs, we love you.”
Lopez’s path in 17 years of professional soccer has been a winding one. He noted recently on social media that at his first professional club as an 18-year-old – Major League Soccer’s Chivas USA in 2005 – he played with the father of current Republic FC Academy standout Santiago Suarez, a 17-year-old center back who last week earned a call-up to the United States U-19 Men’s National Team.
He even had a stint with Sacramento’s opponent in September 7’s Open Cup Final a decade ago, joining Orlando City SC during the 2012 USL Championship season and recording one goal in eight appearances before the Lions joined Major League Soccer three years later.
While there have been diversions along the way – including competing in Liga MX for historic Mexican club Toluca – Sacramento has become home, with the relationship between the player, club, and fans one that has endured wherever Lopez has been.
“Look at this crowd, this city,” said Lopez on social media after the game. “I love everybody here. This is my home. I have so many emotions going through my head right now, I just want to enjoy it right now.”
Sacramento Republic FC's Rodrigo Lopez celebrates with teammates and staff after the side's victory against Sporting Kansas City in the Semifinals of the 2022 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. | Photo courtesy Sacramento Republic FC
For Republic FC fans, in that moment, who else could you have possibly wanted on the spot?
“RoRo did what RoRo does,” said Briggs. “Wrote himself into Sacramento history again. Fantastic for him. Fantastic for the club. Just unbelievable.”