SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Damia Viader and Nick Ross each recorded a goal and assist as No. 1 seed Sacramento Republic FC delivered an impressive second-half performance to defeat No. 4 seed San Antonio FC 3-1 in the Western Conference Semifinals of the 2023 USL Championship Playoffs at Heart Health Park on Friday night, eliminating defending Championship title holder San Antonio from the postseason.
The game reached the halftime break scoreless, but Republic FC gained the upper hand four minutes into the second half. Off a short corner from the left, Keko found Viader in the left channel, and after feinting a shot Viader found Russell Cicerone in the left side of the penalty area for a low shot to the bottom-right corner.
Sacramento added a second with 21 minutes to go when Luther Archimede’s initial effort off a through-ball by Keko from the right side of the penalty area hit the left post, but the hosts were able to regather possession off the rebound and recycled possession to Keko, who slipped Nick Ross into the penalty area for a deft finish and his third goal of the season.
Republic FC then wrapped up the game in the 80th minute as Viader added a goal to his earlier assist. The Spaniard broke forward from midfield off a pass from Ross and under pressure from SAFC defender Carter Manley was able to slide home a low finish. San Antonio bagged a late consolation through Tani Oluwaseyi in stoppage time, but that proved the only blemish on an impressive victory for Republic FC.
1. Making his first appearance in more than a month due to injury, Damia Viader’s introduction off the bench at halftime provided an immediate dividend for Republic FC. The Spaniard breaking run on the left side won the corner kick that led to Sacramento’s opening goal, but it was his role in the creation of Russell Cicerone’s finish that showed his quality. Receiving a short corner 30 yards from goal in the left channel, Viader shaped to shoot, shifting the defense, and his disguised pass gave Cicerone space in the left side of the box for a precise finish to the far corner. Adding a goal to wrap up the result with 10 minutes to go off an assist from fellow substitute Luther Archimede, Viader’s impact was a game-changer in a remarkable return.
2. Republic FC had shown it had the formula to defeat the defending Championship title holders earlier this season, and it produced more of the same in a choppy first half that saw both teams commit nine fouls and little flow emerge in the contest. Once Sacramento had established that platform, however, the side’s passing and movement sharpened in the second half with Keko in the middle of some beautiful sequences of play. One of those led to Republic FC’s second goal, where the Spaniard first played a slide-rule pass that set up Luther Archimede for a chance that hit the left post. Keko remained alive in the attack and received a pass from Cicerone – who chased down the rebound – before threading a pass to Nick Ross, who put the game away. His work done, Keko came off with 13 minutes to go with Cicerone to a well-deserved ovation.
3. San Antonio FC never lacked fight as the defense of the title came to an end, but the visitors were just unable to find a way through a Sacramento defense that looked airtight most of the night. Sacramento won 56.8 percent of overall duels, and 66.7 percent of aerial duels while winning enough second balls in midfield and playing risk-free soccer out of the back. That meant while San Antonio was able to win possession in the attacking third four times, the visitors were unable to use their pressing to the effect it has had in other contests. Tani Oluwaseyi got San Antonio on the scoreboard in stoppage time, but it was too little, too late as its season came to an end.
USLChampionship.com Player of the Game
Nick Ross, Sacramento Republic FC – The central midfielder put in a stellar shift highlighted by his goal and assist, completing 22 of 29 passes overall – including 5 of 6 long passes – while finishing with four chances created and two shots overall.
SAC – Russell Cicerone (Damia Viader) 49’
SAC – Nick Ross (Keko) 69’
SAC – Damia Viader (Nick Ross) 80’
SA – Tani Oluwaseyi 90+1’