Coach's Corner: "Now We've Got to Turn up the Dial"

February 12, 2024 - United Soccer League Championship (USL) - Sacramento Republic FC News Release

In its second contest in the Tucson Friendlies, Republic FC added two more names to the preseason scoresheet and netted another set piece goal in a 2-3 loss against Louisville City FC on Sunday. Despite the result, Head Coach Mark Briggs continues to be confident in his squad, using every preseason scrimmage as an opportunity to track the team's progress and prepare for Opening Night on March 9.

Similar to the previous match against Colorado Springs, Sacramento was challenged from the first whistle, and LouCity took an early lead on a well-taken free kick.

"I think it's good for our guys to play against teams that are in our league because it shows that we've got a target on our chest, and we've got to learn how to handle that," said Briggs. "It took us a little while to wake up and understand how to handle the pressure that Louisville was putting on us, but we came together and had some really good passages of play. We equalized to make it 1-1 and from there it was a fairly even game."

Republic FC's first goal came from Rodrigo Lopez, who took advantage of a LouCity misplay, intercepting a pass from the keeper and netting his first score of the preseason. In the second half, both teams made wholesale changes and LouCity took the lead back with two goals in quick succession. Just minutes later, though, Sacramento pulled one pack as a Cristian Parano set piece was headed into the net by Rafael Jauregui.

With Jauregui entering his fourth pro season, Briggs is looking forward to seeing the 19-year-old Sacramento native step into a more established role on the squad. "Rafa's done very well in training camp," said Briggs. "His confidence is growing and he's shown that he can step up, and how he's just got to keep the momentum." Jauregui is the oldest among a group of four graduates from Republic FC's youth academy to feature on this year's roster, leading the charge as each player gets the opportunity to experience their first preseason with the first team.

Including Sunday's goals from Jauregui and Lopez, Republic FC has posted six different goal scorers through its first three preseason contests, a stat line that Briggs is happy to see: "With the quality we have on the roster, it's important that we score goals. We're showing that we can score goals in different ways and with different lineups, so we have to continue to do that. We have to continue to be courageous and be brave, putting ourselves in positions to score goals."

And while the club's first two contests were primarily focused on fitness and getting a feel for the squad, Sunday's approach was more tactical for Briggs. "We've been working a lot on ball retention and taking better care of the ball, and there were a few passages of play where we were really happy," said Briggs. "We kept possession for long periods of time and we manipulated the ball well, so it's pleasing that those things are being taken on board and being executed."

Republic FC is now at the midway point of its preseason, preparing to wrap up the Desert Friendlies with a Wednesday scrimmage against USL League One debutant Spokane Velocity FC before heading up North to face Seattle Sounders FC in one of the MLS side's final tune-ups before the start of its respective season. Briggs is certainly pleased with what he's seen from his squad in the opening weeks of training camp, but with the club's Opening Night now less than a month away, he will expect everything to be taken up a level, building for success in matches with points on the line.

"The first few games have been good, they've allowed us to get back into the rhythm that we had last year and integrate the new players," he said. "Now we've got to turn the dial up a bit. We'll start to focus on the intensity, and those little things as individuals and as a unit that make the difference in games like these. So that'll start to come into play from today."

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