Sacramento Republic FC's Rodrigo Lopez and Orange County SC's Erick "Cubo" Torres could square off as their sides meet on ESPN2 on Sunday afternoon. | Photo courtesy Liza Rosales / Orange County SC
Sacramento Republic FC will try to strengthen its hold on a top-four position in the Western Conference as Orange County SC visits for a nationally televised matinee at Heart Health Park on Sunday, part of a doubleheader that also features a key game in the Western Conference between the eighth-placed LA Galaxy II and sixth-placed El Paso Locomotive FC.
Here’s a look ahead to the action.
Venue: Heart Health Park
Kickoff: 5 p.m. ET
538.com Predictor: SAC 51%, OC 22%, Draw 27%
The Lowdown: Sacramento Republic FC will try to build on an impressive victory last time out as it plays host to California rival Orange County SC, with the visitors clinging to hope in the playoff race after also picking up a win last time out. Sacramento reeled off a 4-0 victory against Loudoun United FC last Saturday night at Heart Health Park as Deshorn Brown and Jack Gurr both scored their first league goals for the club to go with finishes by Dan Casey and Luther Archimede. The result moved Republic FC four points ahead of fifth-placed New Mexico United FC in the Western standings, and with six games to go in the season the 2022 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Finalist could have a chance to chase down a top-three finish in the final stretch as it looks to bridge a five-point gap over that span. Orange County, meanwhile, remains in a must-win situation after taking a 1-0 victory against the LA Galaxy II last Saturday night at Championship Soccer Stadium. Milan Iloski scored his 20th goal of the season for the only goal of the game, but now leads the Championship Golden Boot race by only one goal after Memphis 901 FC’s Phillip Goodrum moved to 19 goals this season on Friday night. The sides played to a 1-1 draw when they first met this season as Damia Viader opened the scoring for Sacramento before Erick “Cubo” Torres leveled from the penalty spot, but with Sacramento having lost only once in all competitions on home turf this season it could be a big challenge for the visitors to find the result they need to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Sacramento Republic FC – Rodrigo Lopez: The veteran playmaker one goal and two assists for Republic FC against Orange County in eight appearances in his career, having previously competed for OCSC in 2013 when he set an individual single-season best with 11 assists.
Orange County SC – Brian Iloski: The elder Iloski brother scored in both games a season ago as Orange County won both of its visits to Heart Health Park, and will look to add to his two goals this season in a must-win game for the visitors.
Venue: Dignity Health Sports Park
Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET
538.com Predictor: LA 35%, ELP 39%, Draw 26%
The Lowdown: El Paso Locomotive FC will try to maintain its position in the playoff places as it heads to face the LA Galaxy II with both teams coming off defeats in their most recent outings. Eighth-place Los Dos sit four points behind sixth-placed El Paso in the Western Conference, but hold a game in hand as they try to rebound from a 1-0 defeat on the road against Orange County SC last Saturday night. The hosts will be without both leading goalscorer Preston Judd and midfielder Carlos Harvey, both of whom were sent off against OCSC, as they try to reverse a 4-0 defeat when they visited Locomotive FC earlier this season. El Salvador international Eric Calvillo and Luis Solignac were on target in that contest, but El Paso is looking to rebound after falling 2-0 to Rio Grande Valley FC in its last outing to leave the side in a precarious position with only four games remaining in its regular season. Locomotive FC will also be aiming to avoid a repeat of the 5-0 defeat it suffered in its last visit to Dignity Health Sports Park a season ago as it tries to gain control of its path to a fourth consecutive postseason appearance.
LA Galaxy II – Cameron Dunbar: The speedy winger has scored nine goals this season and could need to put in a big performance to challenge El Paso’s defense and earn the hosts victory in this playoff six-pointer.
El Paso Locomotive FC – Josue Aaron Gomez: The Mexican forward has recorded two assists in three prior games against Los Dos and could play a key role for the visitors as they try to take victory at Dignity Health Sports Park for the first time.