skip navigation

How Republic FC stuck to the blueprint and profited with Viader leading the charge

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 10/28/23, 11:22AM EDT


Sacramento hit benchmarks from prior performances in victory against San Antonio before Spaniard broke game open

Damia Viader recorded a goal and assist after coming on as a halftime substitute to lead Sacramento Republic FC to victory against San Antonio FC and into the Western Conference Final of the 2023 USL Championship Playoffs. | Photo courtesy Sacramento Repu

Sacramento Republic FC knew exactly the challenge defending USL Championship title holder San Antonio FC would present in the Western Conference Semifinals of the 2023 USL Championship Playoffs on Friday night at Heart Health Park.

From the prior two meetings between the clubs this season, however, Republic FC had the blueprint for success.

More than anything, Sacramento knew it had to win the physical battles. In both prior games, Republic FC had won at least 53 percent of the game’s duels. On Friday night, the side checked that box with a 57.1 percent success rate, while also winning 65.8 percent of aerial duels.

Second, it needed to win its fair share of second balls. Sacramento checked that box as well, making 83 recoveries to 79 for San Antonio as the trio of Luis Felipe Fernandes, Keko and Nick Ross all put in work in midfield to keep the visitors in check.

Third, it needed to play risk-free soccer. That meant at times playing as directly as San Antonio is prone to, lowering the club’s passing accuracy rate in the process. Sacramento’s passing accuracy rate on Friday night was only 64 percent, the second-lowest mark in a game this season, but Republic FC successfully negated San Antonio’s pressing, allowing the visitors no shots off errors and only four occurrences where SAFC won possession in the attacking third.

Earning the right to play is how some players and coaches term it, and it laid the groundwork for a 3-1 victory that sent Republic FC into the Western Conference Final against either Orange County SC or Phoenix Rising FC next weekend.

Sacramento Republic FC defender Conor Donovan (left) and Jared Timmer (right) were part of an impressive display that helped lead the side to victory against San Antonio FC. | Photo courtesy Sacramento Republic FC

“Arguably, they are one of the toughest matchups in the league,” said Republic FC midfielder Damia Viader. “We know what their strengths are. So, you just got to stick to your strategy. And we were really focused all throughout the game.”

Viader then helped deliver a second-half surge that decided the game. Brought on for his first appearance in more than a month after an injury had once again sidelined him this season, the Spaniard made an instant impact. Only three minutes after the break, Viader's forward run on the left was found by Fernandes, with a blocked cross resulting in a corner kick.

The hosts went short, and after Keko found Viader outside the top-left edge of the penalty area, Viader’s threat to shoot drew three defenders. That created space for Russell Cicerone, whom Viader found with a disguised pass, and Sacramento’s leading scorer finished clinically to bottom-right corner to give Republic FC the breakthrough.

From there, it played out in the way Sacramento Head Coach Mark Briggs had envisioned. Keko and Viader’s influence increased as the game opened up, while Ross and Fernandes continued to do the legwork to win possession in midfield. Keko created a second finish for the hosts with just over 20 minutes to go, first playing Luther Archimede through for a finish that hit the left post before regaining possession from Ciceone and slipping a deft through-ball that played in Ross for his first postseason goal.

Viader then capped the performance with 10 minutes to go, breaking forward onto a pass from Ross and finishing under pressure from San Antonio’s Carter Manley. The visitors pulled back a goal in stoppage time, but that couldn’t tarnish a complete performance by Republic FC.

Sacramento Republic FC's Nick Ross put in a stellar all-around display in his side's victory against San Antonio FC, recording one goal and one assist while making seven recoveries. | Photo courtesy Sacramento Republic FC

“[I told them] just to remain in the game, to remain focused and just to stay composed and understand what will happen in the second half – the game will open up and that’s when we can really hurt them,” said Briggs of what he told his players at halftime. “I thought Keko, I thought Luther [Archimede] when he came on, obviously Russell [Cicerone], Dami [Viader] and Luis [Felipe], we found really good pockets in between lines, Nick Ross, really good pockets between lines and it really caused them a lot of problems. And we managed to capitalize and score three goals.”

Viader’s influence in a game-changing performance shone through, however. After a choppy first half in which the two sides generally neutralized one another, the Spaniard’s fluid passing and movement added an element that helped raise the level of those around him.

“Look, Dami is a phenomenal player,” said Briggs. “He’s faced a few injuries and struggled a little bit because of that. But you saw his quality tonight. He has been fantastic this week in training. And then to go on the field and show the quality he has and score a goal – I’m over the moon for him because he’s had some ups and downs.

“To put in a performance like he just did, I’m really pleased for him and obviously for the team.”

Whichever side Republic FC faces for a place in the USL Championship Final next Saturday night at Heart Health Park, the blueprint for success will see changes.

For the side that’s been the most consistent over the 2023 season in the Western Conference, though, the aim of a second USL Championship title remains clearly in sight.

“A great game from the team,” said Viader. “We needed to be solid from zero to the 90th minute. That’s what we did. We know our opponent was very tough, and we stuck to the plan, and it worked.”

Follow the USL Championship

Most Recent News

Most Read News

Latest Videos