If any team appeared prime for upsetting heading into the Second Round of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, it was Sacramento Republic FC.
In the midst of an 0-5-1 run in USL play in which the club had failed to score a goal in a club-record 563 minutes, the Republic were in arguably the worst form of their history, and facing an FC Anahuac side that had just come off an opportunistic penalty kick victory over the Sonoma County Sol.
But from minute one until the final whistle, this game was all Republic all the time as the Sacramento club ended their drought in an emphatic fashion: a 4-0 victory that advanced them to a third round game against USL expansion club Reno 1868 FC. The winner will host Real Salt Lake of MLS in Round 4.
“It’s been ages since we scored a goal, you never come out in front of guys and make excuses,” said Republic head coach Paul Buckle. “We’ve not found the back of the net in these games and it’s cost us, it’s cost us a lot of games. It’s been a very difficult time, and it still is.
“Any level of football, against any level of opposition, you’re going to come unstuck, as we did last year,” he added. “I thought the players, first of all, we approached the game in the right manner. I asked the boys to forget what had gone on before and focus on being on the front foot and being on a tempo, and we did. I think all night, we actually got better.”
English striker Harry Williams was the star on the night, becoming the third Republic player to tally multiple goals in the club’s nine-game Open Cup history.
Set up on crosses from wing back Elliot Hord, Williams struck in the 12th and 15th minutes to put the game out of reach early and become the Republic’s first goalscorer in over a month.
“It’s about time, isn’t it?” Williams said after the match.
He was joined on the scoresheet midway through the second half by substitute, and birthday boy, Wilson Kneeshaw, who was brought down in the penalty box and stepped up to send Anahuac goalkeeper Angel Alvarez the wrong way.
After not having scored for so long, the Republic sent waves of attackers forward until the last minute of the game, and were again rewarded when Trinidad and Tobago international Trevin Caeser broke through on goal in the left side of the box.
Though Caeser’s shot was saved by Alvarez, the rebound fell to fellow substitute Daniel Trickett-Smith, and the ex-Liverpool youth player struck a side volley into the back of the net that caused the crowd of 5,308 at Papa Murphy’s Park to erupt in exuberance.
With the win, the Republic improved to 6-2-1 in all-time Open Cup play, with the draw coming as a heartbreaking penalty kick loss in 2015 to the San Jose Earthquakes.