SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Second-half goals by Maalique Foster and Keko sent Sacramento Republic FC to a 2-0 victory against New Mexico United in the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the 2022 USL Championship Playoffs presented by Hisense at Heart Health Park.
Rodrigo Lopez provided the assists on both goals, moving the veteran to 10 assists this season across the regular season and playoffs, as Sacramento marked its postseason return with a victory.
Looking to reverse the result from the first postseason meeting between the teams, New Mexico had a pair of early chances gifted by loose Sacramento passes but were unable to capitalize. Jerome Kiesewetter had the first in the third minute as Sacramento’s Duke Lacroix misplayed a pass in the defensive third only for the ex-United States international to shoot high, while Amando Moreno fired just wide of the right post from the top of the penalty area three minutes later.
Republic FC began to come further into the game after the opening 10 minutes and on the quarter-hour mark Damia Viader had the first good look for the hosts as his long-range effort was stopped by United goalkeeper Alex Tambakis. Sacramento then hit the woodwork on the best chance for either side in the opening half as Foster got on the end of a good ball from the left by Keko but struck the post with his first-time finish, allowing New Mexico to clear.
New Mexico had more chances in the first half overall, though, and Kiesewetter flashed a header just over the crossbar off a corner kick from the right by Justin Portillo nine minutes before the break. Harry Swartz also went close with a fizzing shot that went just wide in stoppage time for the visitors before Sergio Rivas clipped a chipped finish high before the halftime whistle went.
Less than two minutes into the second half, Sacramento struck. A quickly built move upfield saw Keko combine with Lopez in midfield to release Foster into space where the Jamaican finished clinically for his first postseason goal. Foster almost struck again in his final action of the night before being substituted in the 65th minute, only for Tamabakis to turn his effort wide as Keko released Foster on a counterattack, while New Mexico’s Neco Brett also went close to finding an equalizer for the visitors with a turning shot six minutes later.
Sacramento doubled its advantage in fortuitous fashion with 16 minutes to go, however, as the hosts turned possession over in United’s half and quickly shifted the ball to Keko. The Spaniard fired from 25 yards out and saw his effort clip Luther Archimede in the back on its way toward goal, leaving Tambakis unable to respond as the ball looped into the net.
Archimede almost added a goal of his own in the 78th minute as he stole possession in midfield to break in one-on-one against Tambakis but the Greek goalkeeper made a good kick-save to deny him. Despite a late chance for Swartz for New Mexico, though, there was no way back for the visitors as Sacramento claimed its first trip to the Western Conference Semifinals since 2019.
USLChampionship.com Player of the Match
Rodrigo Lopez, Sacramento Republic FC – The veteran playmaker recorded assists on both goals for the hosts, recorded five chances created overall and completed 36 of 44 passes.
SAC – Maalique Foster (Rodrigo Lopez) 47’
SAC – Keko (Rodrigo Lopez) 74’