By EVAN REAM
With MLS officials currently in town, possible future stadium renderings released and a letter of intent signed for a bid for that stadium site, the city of Sacramento has entered full celebration mode.
Though the MLS representatives are not scheduled to stay for the game, the No. 2 seed Republic will hope to continue the celebration on the field when they take on rivals and No. 3 seed LA Galaxy II on Saturday night at Bonney Field.
In four meetings this year, Los Dos only posted a single victory against Sacramento. That win came in the final game of the regular season, when the Republic rested most of their starters in a 2-1 result that was Sacramento’s only loss at Bonney Field all season.
The Republic are coming off of a 4-1 blowout win against in-form Wilmington in a game that was decided by three Sacramento goals off set pieces. With a 9-1-2 record in their last 12 games, the Republic are the hottest side in USL and the title favorites after No. 1 seed Orlando City was upset at home in the quarterfinals.
If the Galaxy II hope to advance, they will need to stop MVP candidate Rodrigo Lopez, who scored eight of his 10 regular season goals at Bonney Field. The task of stopping “RoRo” will be more difficult than usual as Los Dos captain and holding midfielder Rafael Garcia was sent off in a 2-1 victory over Rochester, meaning he will be suspended for the game against the Republic.
Chandler Hoffman, who has earned appearances with the Galaxy first team thanks to strong play in USL Pro, powers a talented Galaxy II front line that finished second in the league with 54 goals.
Here’s a look at the other semifinal matchup in USL Pro:
RICHMOND KICKERS vs. HARRISBURG CITY ISLANDERS
It didn’t come as a surprise when it took the Kickers extra time to defeat shorthanded Charleston in the quarterfinals last weekend. Richmond settled for a league-high 12 draws during the regular season, and Saturday’s match against upstart Harrisburg could easily go the full 120 minutes.
The No. 8 seed City Islanders scored the only upset of the opening weekend, taking down title favorites, No. 1 seed, and 2015 MLS expansion team Orlando City Soccer Club on the road.
Harrisburg actually finished the regular season with a losing record, going 10-11-7 in league play, and losing three of their final five matches to stumble into the playoffs.
They will be facing a strong Richmond side featuring the powerful forward line of Matthew Delicâte and George Davis IV, who combined for 25 goals in the regular season.
Richmond stumbled into the playoffs as well, going winless in their last five matches of the season to cede the No. 2 seed to the Republic.
Which match are you looking forward to watching? Expecting an upset or two?
Share your thoughts below.