On reflection, there was one big takeaway for Sacramento Republic FC’s Rodrigo Lopez on the club’s run to the Final of the 2022 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
“That we could compete with any team in the country,” said Lopez. “At home or away, I think the boys definitely showed what we’re capable of and what we’ve shown all season. We believe in each other. We believe in what our coaching staff is implementing, how we want to play, and that’s very important coming into the playoffs.”
While Republic FC came up one victory short last week against Orlando City SC at Exploria Stadium, the revamped squad’s growth – including one of the finest seasons of his career for Lopez – has set the club’s sights on the closing the season with silverware. The 35-year-old was key to the club’s success during August, with one goal and four assists – the latter tied for the league-high – earning him his first USL Championship Player of the Month award.
Lopez has been among the most influential players in the Championship this season with his all-around play seeing him record four goals and seven assists in the league as well as four more goals in the Open Cup – tying him for the tournament lead – meshing with fellow midfielders Luis Felipe Fernandes and Matt LaGrassa and the club’s forward contingent to make Sacramento a challenging lineup to square off against.
“This award shows how we work as a team, and reflects the nature of a team sport,” said Lopez of his Player of the Month award. “For me, it is a collective award that I’m going to share with my team… obviously the nature of it highlights the contributions, but it is based on the work of the team. Without the support of my teammates, we don’t earn this award.”
That’s the mentality that Sacramento is carrying into the final six games of the regular season, which begin on Sunday afternoon against Orange County SC in a nationally televised contest on ESPN2 at Heart Health Park. After romping to victory last weekend in the club’s return home after its Open Cup journey ended, Sacramento sits in fourth place in the Western Conference and is closing fast on securing its playoff berth.
Lopez believes the nature of the USL Championship Playoffs’ single-elimination format will have Sacramento in a good place after the success it achieved under the same conditions in the Open Cup.
“We’ve shown in the Open Cup that we’re going to be really hard to beat in those type of games,” said Lopez. “I think our team is positioned to get a good spot in the Western Conference, which to me is the hardest conference. Every game we play in our conference is a difficult one. So, to be able to host and get one of those top four positions is very important for us going into the playoffs.”
Lopez claimed the USL Championship Player of the Month award for August in one of the narrowest votes in its history, finishing with 25 percent of a weighted poll that included the USL Championship Technical Committee, a national panel of independent media representing every USL market and an online fan vote held at USLChampionship.com. He is the first Republic FC player to claim the Championship Player of the Month in its history, spanning to the start of the 2017 season.
Memphis 901 FC’s Aaron Molloy finished second on 24 percent after recording two goals and four assists as his side moved toward its second consecutive postseason berth, while El Paso Locomotive FC’s Luis Solignac finished third on 23 percent after recording four goals and one assist in four appearances.
|Nominee||Fan Vote||Weight||Media Vote||Weight||USL Vote||Weight||Total Vote|
|Rodrigo Lopez (SAC)||44%||22%||12%||3%||0%||0%||25%|
|Aaron Molloy (MEM)||28%||14%||6%||1%||33%||8%||24%|
|Luis Solignac (ELP)||14%||7%||29%||7%||33%||8%||23%|
|Juan Agudelo (BHM)||9%||5%||29%||7%||17%||4%||16%|
|Connor Sparrow (MIA)||5%||3%||24%||6%||17%||4%||12%|