Republic forward Dakota Collins scored the winning goal with 12 minutes left after a pair of former Fusion players, Rodrigo Lopez and Harrison Delbridge, combined to level the game in the 59th minute.
“In this knock-out, elimination tournament, it’s always hard because you only have 90 minutes and you have another 30 if it’s still tied,” said assistant coach Rod Underwood who was standing in for suspended head coach Predrag “Preki” Radosavlijević. “It’s a lot of pressure, but we made it more difficult than it should have been.”
Sacramento dominated the whole game, but found itself behind at halftime when Ventura County forward Jordan Rideout was sent through on a counterattack by Agustin Cazarez in the 36th minute.
With the ball on his right foot, Rideout blasted the ball past onrushing Republic goalkeeper Dominic Jakubek and into the back of the net.
Underwood responded by bringing on Lopez, who usually starts, after the break.
The former Chivas USA man whose father played one game in the Open Cup for San Nicolas in 1998, made his first contribution 13 minutes after coming on when he lofted a free kick to the back post that towering Aussie defender Harrison Delbridge was able to get a head on.
Delbridge’s header was perfectly placed into the upper corner of the net, tying the game in front of a crowd of 1,347.
“It’s always important, the first game in Open Cup history for this franchise,” said Lopez. “It’s important to get the win. We had a slow start, but we pulled away with the win. Good teams find a way to win against a good opponent. Ventura Fusion is always one of the top PDL teams.”
“It’s just a tournament that personally I want to advance in, being here with such an amazing crowd and atmosphere at our games,” Lopez said. “I think deserves an MLS team. Outside of the field they’re doing things right, so I think inside of the field, we gotta do our job and keep advancing and make a statement, not just for our league, but for MLS and all the other leagues in our country.”
“Ro-Ro is a key player for us,” Underwood said of Lopez. “We needed someone to come in and help us do the things we like to do. And he did that.”
Nineteen minutes later the comeback was complete when Collins latched onto a saved shot to tap the ball into an empty net from inside the six-yard box.
Right back Emrah Klimenta’s run forward found Chad Bartlomé at the top of the box. Bartlomé played a 1-2 with Klimenta, then turned and shot the ball low and hard to Fusion keeper Trey Mitchell’s right.
Mitchell got a hand on the ball, but he was powerless to stop Collins from cashing in the rebound.
The game was sealed 10 minutes later when Ventura County defender Javan Torre was sent off after making physical contact with the referee after he received a yellow card for a bad challenge.
Republic FC will host the Fresno Fuego from the PDL on May 28 in the Third Round.