Despite the game being their third in three different cities in six days, Sacramento Republic FC managed to post the largest margin of victory so far in the 2014 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup with a 6-0 win over Fresno Fuego Wednesday night at Cosumnes River College.
Nermanja Vuković, Justin Braun, Thomas Stewart, Rodrigo Lopez, Emrah Klimenta and Steven Evans all scored to set up a Fourth Round meeting with the San Jose Earthquakes, one of Sacramento’s two MLS affiliates.
“It feels great. I hope the team gets to realize that we’re a good team,” Lopez said, “We’re a very deep team as well. I think we can go pretty far.”
After arriving back at home late Tuesday night due to weather delays from their two-game road trip where they picked up wins in Rochester and Dayton, the Republic started the match out slowly, nearly giving up a goal in the fifth minute only to be saved by a goal-line clearance from defender Harrison Delbridge.
Former Chivas USA draft pick Paul Islas beat two defenders down the left side of the field, and cut the ball back to Jose Cuevas who opened up and side-footed the ball to the far post where the hulking Australian Delbridge was able to deflect the shot out of the penalty area.
The teams traded quality opportunities until Fuego defender Alfred Edmonds was sent off in the 41st minute for his second yellow card, giving Sacramento a man advantage.
Sacramento quickly pounced just four minutes later as some extended possession saw midfielder Octavio Guzman pick out an overlapping run from left back Nermanja Vuković who received the ball 12 yards out in the left side of the box and rifled a left-footed rocket into the roof of the net for the eventual winning goal of the match.
“Nermanja was wide open, it was easy to do,” Guzman said. “I’m really excited. I’m looking forward to test ourselves against an MLS team.”
Shortly after the break, Guzman won the ball at the midfield stripe to set up a three-on-one situation where Justin Braun played Thomas Stewart through onto goal. Stewart cut the ball back, drew the Fuego keeper off his line and returned the ball to Braun, who was able to tap it in from close range to essentially seal the win and a June 11 game against San Jose at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco.
The next four goals came in a flurry in which Fuego goalkeeper Francisco Hernandez was forced to make a variety of highlight-reel saves to keep the score as close as it was.
Stewart scored eight minutes after Braun on an assist from Lopez, and then 15 minutes after that, the diminutive playmaker brought the house down with a spectacular effort. Picking the ball up 30-yards from goal, Lopez slalomed between two defenders and then pushed the ball past a third while running around the other side of the helpless defender. He then took a touch to his right and chipped the ball over the onrushing Hernandez, sending the crowd of 1,523 into pandemonium.
“I don’t know where I got it from,” the halftime substitute said in disbelief. “I didn’t know I had the legs to do it.”
Emrah Klimenta and Steven Evans each scored to cap off the blowout that wasn’t done with the controversy.
Republic midfielder Ivan Mirković fouled a Fuego player in the box in stoppage time of the game to receive his second yellow card of the game which set up a penalty for Fuego.
Mirković was given a standing ovation as he exited the field and goalkeeper Jakubek dove to his right to stone Jose Cuevas and then to his right to deny Cuevas again on the follow up as the referee blew for full time.
“We expect to win, you never really contemplate what the score is going to be,” said Rod Underwood, Sacramento’s acting manager while head coach Preki finished serving the second game of a two-game suspension in the Open Cup. “We just expect to win.”