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Why the opening goal matters, and doesn’t, in Republic FC’s Open Cup Final bid

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 09/06/22, 5:10PM EDT


Sacramento has yet to trail in its run to the Final, but will need resilience regardless against in-form Orlando City SC

Sacramento Republic FC has yet to trail in this year's Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup as it heads into Wednesday night's Final against Orlando City SC. | Photo courtesy Sacramento Republic FC

It might be one of the key factors underpinning Sacramento Republic FC’s run to the 2022 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final.

In six games – or 570 minutes of action – the USL Championship side has not trailed once. Republic FC scored a first-half goal in each of its five victories before playing to a scoreless draw through regulation and extra time against Sporting Kansas City in the Semifinal, advancing in a penalty shootout.

It’s an impressive feat, one the side could hang its hat on as it faces Major League Soccer’s Orlando City SC in Wednesday’s Final at Exploria Stadium (8 p.m. ET | ESPN+).

For Republic FC Head Coach Mark Briggs, however, it’s been a positive, but it’s also in the past as his team prepares for the biggest game in the club’s history.

“Going ahead in games and not trailing gives the guys’ confidence going into the game, but I think that the past is ruled out when you get to a final,” said Briggs. “All sorts of things can happen, and our guys just have to be prepared for whatever comes their way. Whether that's positive, whether that’s negative, we’ve got to be prepared for whatever comes our way and understand that we can overcome whatever comes our way.”

The positive has far outweighed the negative for Republic FC this season, both in the USL Championship and the Open Cup. After missing out on the playoffs for the first time in club history a season ago, this year and the club’s rebooted roster has Sacramento in position to host at least one playoff game in addition to its historic run in the cup.

And when Sacramento has needed to show its resilience in the league, it has done so in impressive fashion. Republic FC’s 18 points gained from losing positions is the second-highest total in the league behind the Tampa Bay Rowdies (20), with the side having won five times already this season in contests it trailed in.

That resiliency will be required even if Sacramento finds the opening goal against Orlando. The Lions – a two-time USL Championship title winner at the start of their history – have already come back to draw a pair of contests settled by penalty shootouts during their Open Cup run. One of those came in dramatic fashion, with Rodrigo Schlegel’s goal in the fourth minute of second-half stoppage time against Nashville SC in the Quarterfinals allowing the club’s run to continue.

Currently on a four-game winning streak in Major League Soccer – which included a 3-2 victory against Seattle Sounders FC last Wednesday night at Exploria Stadium that saw the hosts come back from a two-goal deficit to win in stoppage time – Orlando is in its best form of the season.

Sacramento is keenly aware of the challenge it faces before a sold-out crowd where the majority will be hoping the hosts can claim their first silverware since the USL Championship Final in 2013.

“I think we’ve learned that we can handle those environments,” said Briggs. “We’ve learned that we can perform within those environments and [Wednesday] is no different. We’ve just got to prepare like we normally do. Make sure everybody understands what we’re walking into, so there’s no surprises when we arrive and give the players confidence to go out and perform.”

With members of the Tower Bridge Battalion leading the travelling support, there will be some familiar faces in the stands for the visitors as well.

As the club sits one win from history, Republic FC is aiming to remain in the moment and embrace the opportunity Wednesday’s game presents, whichever path it must take to get there.

“These are the occasions that every player wants to perform in front of,” said Briggs. “Not many players make it to a Final, so we’ve got to enjoy the moment, the players have to enjoy the moment and feel confidence and be in a good frame of mind to go out and perform.”

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