VANCOUVER, BC - Returning from a two-game road trip with a 2W-0L-0D record, Whitecaps FC 2 (WFC2) prepare for their home-opener against perennial Western Conference powerhouse and fellow 2W-0L-0D side Sacramento Republic FC.
The past two match outcomes have been a result of hard work and development. This Sunday, the young ‘Caps play MLS-hopeful Sacramento Republic FC at Thunderbird Stadium.
So let’s get to know thy enemy.
Sacramento Republic FC were brought into USL in 2014 and have been a powerhouse within the Western Conference ever since. In their inaugural year, Republic FC won the USL Championship after finishing second in regular season play. They followed a successful season with a valiant playoff run in 2015 before losing to LA Galaxy II in the first round. They have proven to be a dominating threat within the Western Conference and have continued into the start of the 2016 season undefeated.
Republic FC will provide WFC2 with a tough battle, but if the young ‘Caps continue to work the way they have been, they could give their older counterparts all they can handle.
The average age amongst last week’s starting lineup for Republic FC was 26 years old. Compare that to the average age for WFC2 versus Portland, which was 21 years old. Republic FC are an experienced group, with players who have many years of professional soccer under their belt. They’ll impose their physical presence, which will be an excellent challenge for a few of the younger WFC2 players
The structure of USL and the relationship with MLS provides diversity and flexibility when it comes to age. This means that on Sunday there is potential to see Republic FC goalkeeper Dominik Jakubek at 36 years of age, match up against 15-year-old midfielder Alphonso Davies. To put that into perspective, Davies was just four years old when Jakubek began his professional career.
A known presence on the Sacramento roster is Canadian-born Mackenzie Pridham, who played with WFC2 during the 2015 season where he appeared in 20 matches. Pridham scored a late equalizer in the annual Highway 99 Derby against PDL side Fresno Fuego, allowing Republic FC to register a 1(5)-1(3) victory that came down to kicks. Pridham will be a familiar face to his former WFC2 teammates, creating what will inevitably be an interesting matchup this weekend.
While Sacramento are their own club, they do have a partnership with San Jose Earthquakes and benefit from player loans. Among those loans this season is striker Adam Jahn and midfielder Tommy Thompson. Both players were recalled by San Jose last weekend, and Jahn scored the equalizing goal for the Quakes in their 1-1 draw against D.C. United. Jahn has appeared in over 50 matches for San Jose since 2013. JJ Koval (39), Thompson (23), and Mark Sherrod (six) have also made numerous MLS appearances for San Jose prior to being loaned to Republic FC. Koval and Sherrod both started for Sacramento last weekend and may feature again on Sunday.
Having MLS experience within a USL team can be monumental, especially considering the youth that many clubs feature.
With the aspiration of joining MLS, the past few months have been extremely eventful for Sacramento Republic FC. A planned visit from MLS commissioner Don Garber is set for next week and could be a big step forward in their pursuit.
The club continually achieves record-breaking turnouts to their home games, including last week’s match against Arizona United SC which brought out 11,569 fans to Bonney Field. The team’s established support group, known as the Tower Bridge Battalion, consistently brings energy to whatever stadium the team happens to be playing at. A prospective new stadium is in the works to also provide the club with further backing when pleading their case to the commissioner.
What does this mean for Sunday? Between the support, the stadium, and the skill, the stars are aligning for Sacramento. They are playing with confidence and an eagerness to prove themselves worthy of MLS. A motivated Sacramento team fighting for a spot in MLS against a young ‘Caps squad of developing talent working to prove themselves within the professional ranks. It all adds up to an intriguing match-up on Sunday.
Don't miss the 2016 WFC2 home opener this coming Sunday, April 10 at Thunderbird Stadium. Tickets are available now through Ticketmaster or at whitecapsfc.com/wfc2/tickets, or if you're an MLS season ticket member redeem your vouchers through Account Manager.