In what’s becoming an annual tradition, Sacramento Republic FC opened its Lamar Hunt US Open Cup campaign in emphatic fashion, defeating NPSL side CD Aguiluchos USA 5-0 Wednesday night at Bonney Field.
Oft-injured midfielder Max Alvarez proved the difference for the Republic, setting up three goals and scoring one for himself from dead balls to help Sacramento advance to a Third Round match-up against Kitsap Pumas of the PDL.
“We were very clinical from set plays, very clinical, right to the very end with Max’s goal,” said Republic head coach Paul Buckle. “We could have scored more, I wanted to score more goals. There were opportunities for our strikers to get more goals. They didn’t come, but I’m very pleased with the clean sheet.”
It took the Republic just 24 minutes to get the only goal it would need for the match, when midfielder Alfonso Motagalvan headed home an Alvarez corner kick past Aguiluchos keeper Kevin Gonzalez for a 1-0 lead.
Gonzalez had earlier saved a weak penalty from Tommy Stewart, giving the small traveling crowd hope for an upset.
Instead, the floodgates opened after Motagalvan’s goal.
In the 36th minute, Alvarez lined up on the left side of the field roughly 30 yards to goal and whipped in a free kick into the danger area of the box.
Though an Aguiluchos defender got a piece of it, the ball was never properly cleared, paving the way for Mackenzie Pridham to stab the ball home from close range.
Centerback Carlos Rodriguez, just 19-years-old and getting his first competitive minutes for the Republic, joined in on the fun in the 44th minute. The towering defender rifled a header into the back of the net off of yet another Alvarez set piece, this time a corner.
Prior to the game, Sacramento hadn’t scored a goal off of a corner kick since Sep. 13, 2014. Now they had two goals off such plays in a 20-minute period.
“It’s nice to have a couple [corner kick goals],” Alvarez said. “That’s something we’ve been working on. Guys are making better runs, something we’ve been working on as well. Everyone played their part in those goals. It was good to see a couple free kick goals for once. It’s been a long time.”
Stewart made up for his penalty miss in stoppage time, putting away the competitive aspect of the game with a finish off of a rebound from Gonzalez for a 4-0 lead.
Though Aguiluchos held their own for the majority of the second half, Alvarez stepped up to one final set piece in second half stoppage time to cap the night off.
From 25 yards out, the midfielder bent a left-footed free kick into the upper corner of the net to complete the 5-0 victory and send CD Aguiluchos USA home.
“To strike a football like that, into the top corner, if that was in the Premier League or La Liga, they’d be talking about that for weeks and weeks,” Buckle said.
With the victory, Sacramento improved to 5-0-0 in Open Cup play against fourth division sides, with 24 goals scored and just six allowed in those five games.
“It’s massive for us, we really do want to have a run in the Open Cup,” Buckle said. “In England, I had some wonderful times as head coach there, some incredible memories [in the FA Cup] … this is my first game in the Open Cup. Five-nil is good. But my standards are very high. Our standards at the club are high. I know that in some cases tonight, we could have been a lot better.”
Leading up to the match, much of the conversation around the Internet involved the general dearth of online streams involving USL teams in the Second Round of the Open Cup.
The Republic were one such team that chose not to stream the match, so Aguiluchos chairman Roger Amaya took matters into his own hands, streaming the match live through his phone on the CD Facebook page.
However, the ability for fans of the team to actually watch the game didn’t help produce results on the field as the Oakland-based club dropped to 1-2 in all-time Open Cup play.
Evan Ream covers Sacramento Republic FC and soccer in Northern California for The Davis Enterprise. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @EvanReam