Heart Health Park witnessed one of the most thrilling matches in Sacramento Republic FC’s history. For the first time in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, the “Indomitable club” defeated MLS side San Jose Earthquakes after three narrow defeats in 2014, 2015 and 2019.
The San Jose Earthquakes controlled most of the possession in the initial minutes of the game. Breaking the Sacramento backline, firing shots and creating opportunities mainly in the left flank. However, after settling down, Republic FC matched San Jose’s intensity and turned out to be a historic night for the Indomitable Club, beating the MLS side 2-0 on the strength of a goal and an assist by long-time captain Rodrigo Lopez.
“I thought especially in the last 20 minutes of the first half, we started to take control of the game and looked threatening when we got in their attacking half,” said Sacramento Republic FC head coach Mark Briggs. “I thought we could’ve had one more , forward defending excellently, could’ve been better with the ball, but who cares! It’s a cup game, it’s a one-off game, we won and that’s all I really care about to be quite frankly.”
The win tonight improves Sacramento Republic FC’s all-time home record to 16-1 in Open Cup play with 11 straight wins, the fourth longest home winning streak of the Modern Era (1995-present).
“The fight that the guys put up tonight was incredible. The crowd was supporting us throughout the whole night, having our back. For me it was a special night,” said Luis Felipe, responsible for scoring the first goal of the night against his former club. Felipe played for San Jose three seasons before being released in 2020.
Luis Felipe, the former Earthquake, scored the opening goal in the 28th minute off a corner kick. Surrounded by San Jose players right in front goal, he used every inch of his 6’1 frame to head the ball past San Jose goalkeeper Matt Bersano.
“One thing that we put in our head was that we couldn’t be afraid of them, they are MLS but we have a great team and we showed it tonight. We stepped out and showed that we are capable of achieving big things,” he added.
Rodrigo Lopez, who delivered that corner kick to Luis Felipe, was another player that had a stellar performance. And he had a good feeling about the game all along.
“Coming into the stadium I told our trainers today that I felt vibes from 2014/2015,” said Lopez. The 35-year-old captain wrote yet another chapter in the history books for Sacramento Republic by leading them to their first-ever quarterfinal appearance in the US Open Cup with a rocket shot from just outside the box in the 84th minute.
Lopez received a pass on the right wing and saw his defender giving him plenty of space. He timed his run well because as soon as the defender starrted to close in on him, he turned on the jets and blew past him. The Sacramento captain dribbled about 20 yards in and launched his shot as he approached the corner of the penalty area and sent it into the upper 90 at the far post. Bersano got a hand to it but it was hit with such force that it ended up in the back of the net to give the home side a 2-0 lead that they would hold onto until the final whistle.
Reaching the Quarterfinals for the first time is an achievement that is hard to believe hasn’t happened already since Sacramento has been a model of lower division consistency in the tournament. In the club’s seven Open Cup appearances, the Republic have advanced at least twice in each competition every year with the exception of one: their only loss to a non-MLS team, a 3-1 home loss to the Kitsap Pumas (USL League Two) in 2016. Aside from that game, the other five times Sacramento has been eliminated, it was at the hands of a MLS team (3 vs. San Jose, 1 vs. LA Galaxy, 1 vs. LAFC).
Sacramento has now defeated three Major League Soccer teams with tonight’s win over San Jose. Real Salt Lake and the Seattle Sounders being the other two franchises.
“I’m really happy. I’m enjoying playing more than any year to be honest, I know it’s toward the end of my career but I’m just trying to enjoy it everyday,” said Lopez.
The 84th-minute rocket by Rodrigo Lopez’s marks his sixth career US Open Cup goal, which is tied with Tommy Stewart for the most in Sacramento Republic FC history. It was his third goal of the 2022 US Open Cup, which ties him for the tournament lead.
Only nine Modern Era players have scored more goals than Lopez while playing for a second division pro team. None of them are still actively playing.
The Indomitable Club will look to keep their Open Cup run alive on June 21 as they travel to Los Angeles to take on the two-time champion Galaxy and face Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez and company in the Quarterfinals.