Sacramento Republic FC forward Tommy Stewart became the first Northern Irish player in the US Open Cup modern era to score a hat trick.
That hat trick was the first hat trick tallied in the Republic’s four-game Open Cup history.
The Republic became the first team to draw over 10,000 fans (10,386) in a Second Round game, breaking the previous record of 9,339 set by the Columbus Crew in 2001.
In the end, it was a wild 4-2 win for Sacramento over the NPSL’s Sonoma County Sol that, in classic Open Cup fashion, featured plenty of drama.
First it appeared as if the Republic would score an easy victory as Stewart scored a goal and set up another from Gabe Gonzalez in the first 12 minutes of the match.
Though Sacramento dominated the possession, the Sol pulled a goal back 14 minutes later when Sonoma forward Omar Nuno picked up a ball near the top of the box, turned and fired it into the upper 90 of Dominik Jakubek’s goal to half the deficit.
“I think this game should have been over [much earlier], but we made it a little difficult for ourselves,” said Republic head coach Preki. “We got lucky in the end.”
Just as the Sol thought they were getting momentum, Stewart scored his second goal just before halftime after capitalizing on a defensive miscue set up by Republic midfielder Zev Taublieb.
Stewart scored the fourth goal – set up by Sacramento-native Cameron Iwasa – 16 minutes after the break to extend the lead, but the Sol answered right back with another banger from Nuno just 12 minutes after the break.
In the 76th minute, the Sol looked to be making a legitimate case for a comeback when Jakubek took a Sol player down in the box, leaving the referee no choice but to point to the spot.
Up stepped Taylor Varnadore, whose shot beat Jakubek, but not the post, leading to an eruption from the Tower Bridge Battalion, who were standing behind the goal that Varnadore shot on.
Holding a two-goal lead, the Republic figured to be in the next round drama free until the 87th minute, when a rough tackle from Jesus Arroyo brought down Stewart in the middle of the field.
Writhing in pain, Stewart had to be stretchered off the field due to an apparent ankle injury, and the Republic were forced to play the rest of the game with 10 men as they had already used all their subs.
“Goals will come in bunches and different places. I’m not really worried who scores them. Tommy was on the end of some goals tonight and that was good, but we still should have had more goals,” Preki said.
The Republic will host Chula Vista FC of the USASA on Wednesday at Bonney Field in a Third Round matchup.
“They’re not amateurs. They went to Arizona and beat Arizona, who’s in our league,” Preki said. “I’m expecting a tough game.”
To help cover travel costs, Chula Vista have started a GoFundMe campaign (gofundme.com/uvvs9h6e).
Full match replay: Sonoma County Sol at Sacramento Republic