Three Takeaways from #SACvTAC
SRFC are in the playoffs for the seventh straight time and currently in the midst of a near double digit unbeaten streak, the central midfield group contributed on both ends on Sunday while Bijev continued his brilliance.
The boys in Old Glory Red earned a playoff spot last week without even taking the field but Sunday's come-from-behind 3-3 draw against Tacoma Defiance ensured the squad was still collecting points in the standings in hopes of catching Reno 1868 FC for the top spot in Group A.
On two separate occasions the Indomitable Club trailed Defiance but a resilient Republic FC side bounced back both times to ensure both teams would share the spoils at Papa Murphy's Park. The game was the third of four regular season meetings between the two Western Conference clubs and it was the second time this season the match ended in a 3-3 score line.
The match also saw defender Juan Barahona return from injury and immediately make his way back into the starting eleven while goalkeeper Brady Scott made his debut in net for the Indomitable Club after joining SRFC on loan from Nashville SC for the remainder of the 2020 season.
Juan Barahona returned to the starting lineup after missing time due to injury.
On top of a promising debut and a highly anticipated return to the team, it's time to reflect in a trio of other positives to take away from Sunday's six goal thriller against Tacoma before the squad turns its attention to this Saturday night's heavyweight bout against 1868 FC in Reno.
Unbeaten in Nine and a Lock for a Seventh Trip to the Playoffs
By Republic FC's next match this coming weekend against Reno 1868 FC, it will have been over two months since Mark Briggs' men last tasted defeat.
It also just so happened to be the only time the squad has lost during the 2020 USL Championship campaign.
The Indomitable Club officially sealed a spot in the postseason last Thursday night after Tacoma Defiance lost to Reno 1868 FC to mathematically eliminate the Pacific Northwest club and solidify Sacramento's place in this year's playoffs. But the hunt for first place in Group A is still very much up in the air and Sunday's result in Sacramento helped Republic FC inch one step closer towards catching first place Reno.
This Saturday night at Greater Nevada Field, the regional rivals will clash for a fourth a final time during the regular season with SRFC coming out on top in two of the previous three fixtures this year. A win is what the boys in Old Glory Red will be gunning for, but a draw does not guarantee 1868 FC clinches the group but Reno in a good spot to do so over its next two matches.
Newly acquired Frank Lopez entered the matching the second half.
If SRFC returns from Reno with a win or draw, the club's current unbeaten run would be lifted to 10 - one shy of tying the club record of 11 consecutive contests without a loss set during the inaugural season in 2014.
Midfield Maestros Put in Tireless Performance
Collectively, the midfield crew of Drew Skundrich, Jaime Villarreal and Rodrigo Lopez contributed positively on every inch of the pitch on Sunday night.
Skundrich was active on both ends against Tacoma and prior to his 75th minute substitution for striker Frank Lopez, the captain collected the most shots on the team alongside Villyan Bijev with three. Skundrich had no issues doing some of the dirty work as well with a tie for the most tackles on the team with Jordan McCrary - three - and his 12 duels on the night were the most by a Republic FC player.
SRFC has now scored multiple goals in a match six straight times.
Aside from finding the back of the net or collecting another assist this season, there seemingly wasn't a single thing Villarreal did not do to help his side collect a point on Sunday. Defensively, the midfielder made two tackles, contributed one clearance, notched two interceptions, helped to gain possession eight times, blocked one shot and his 10 duels were second-most on the team. On the offensive end, Villarreal took one shot and set up two scoring chances during his 90 minutes patrolling the pitch.
Lopez entered the match in the second half and exactly seven years to the day since the Miracle at Bonney, RoRo once again scored in stoppage time to seal a late comeback for the Indomitable Club. The goal was his first this season and helped to keep SRFC in contention for the top spot in Group A. In the 21 minutes Lopez was on the field, the midfielder tallied two shots - both on target - and finished the contest with a passing accuracy of 92.9%.
Bijev Bags Another Positive Performance
Over the last seven games, Villyan Bijev has netted three goals - two of which were game-winners - and tallied one assist for the boys in Old Glory Red.
Who knows if the dangerous winger would have etched his name in the box score for a second time on Sunday - having scored his sides' opening goal early in the second half - as Bijev was forced to exit the match in the 69th minute after a deflection unexpectedly hit him in the head.
Villyan Bijev has three goals on the 2020 campaign.
Prior to his departure, Bijev recorded three shots - a tie for the team-best on the night - and nearly nabbed a goal in the opening 45 minutes but was called offside after he tucked a right-footed attempt just inside the far post. The Bulgarian-born winger also contributed one cross on the night and one scoring opportunity created.
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