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SF City tie Sacramento Republic in first match of 2017

Match Report by Gabe Zitrin

Substitute Adnan Gabeljic’s last-second penalty brought them level, and San Francisco City FC enjoyed a solid start to their 2017 pre-season on Wednesday, with a 1-1 draw against USL side Sacramento Republic FC on a bright and windy day in the Central Valley.

The closed-door scrimmage at Sacramento’s Cosumnes River College marked the first match of SF City’s 2017, and head coach Paddy Coyne sent a largely veteran squad out to face a Sacramento team that mixed established starters with trialists and academy products. The home team took the lead nine minutes after the restart through Daniel Trickett-Smith, and surrendered it only with the game’s final kick of the ball after SF City’s Jose Mendoza was fouled while heading for goal.

“You can always train as much as you want,” Coyne said of the return to action, “but games are where you really see who’s fit, who’s sharp, who’s ready to go.” SF City center midfielder Danny Kirkland concurred, calling the day’s outing a “good test for us, good opposition, coming up here and playing against a pro team, a well-established team.”

Both sides struggled to create chances in the first half, with Sacramento’s team speed and SF City’s defensive skills snuffing out many half-chances before they’d begun. Kirkland and SF City center back Ben Brewster each made several vital interventions to short-circuit Sacramento attacks.

SF City managed the first real chance of the game 17 minutes in through winger Johannes Demarzi. The veteran found enough space for a cutting diagonal ball into the left channel aimed at the onrushing Carlos Carranza, whose one-time left-footed shot tested the reflexes of Sacramento goalkeeper Dominik Jakubek, who punched the ball over for an SF City corner. The hosts countered as the half went on with charging runs down the wings, and managed the best chance of the half in the 34th minute. SF City were lucky to escape unscathed after a corner kick from the right side bounced fortuitously to a Republic academy product on the far post, but the shot was scuffed inches wide.

The hosts would eventually break through in the 54th minute after a tough, physical play from forward Lamin Suma, who retained possession against two SF City defenders in the left channel, and forced enough space to put a lofted cross into the SF City box. Trickett-Smith was waiting at the far post and easily headed in past SF City’s Peter Swinkles for the lead.

With SF City chasing the game for some of the second half, play began to open up, and both teams created space for open shots from outside the box that went wide of their targets. SF City second-half substitution Dylan Murphy was a consistent threat to shoot from the perimeter, but was unable to equalize.

But SF City’s persistence would eventually pay off at the close of the game, after a quick one-two play in the box saw Mendoza get possession with a look at goal. Suma attempted to clear, but missed the ball and clipped Mendoza instead, and the referee pointed to the spot immediately. Gabeljic cooly finished low and to the right past Republic’s academy substitute goalkeeper to even the score. “In the second half we got our legs back, created a few more opportunities,” Coyne said. “I think the penalty was well deserved, it was coming.”

Not a moment too soon, as the next turn of events was the final whistle.

SF City have a ten-day break before their pre-season resumes, with a first look at brand new club Napa Valley 1839 on March 18 at Napa’s Redwood Middle School — this time open (and free) to fans. Kirkland, captain for the day, summed up the team’s overall mood after the match: “It’s nice to be back.”

Game Statistics:
Shots (on goal):
Republic FC 13 (4)
SF City FC 10 (6)

Republic FC 12
SF City FC 8

Republic FC 5
SF City FC 3

Corner kicks:
Republic FC 2
SF City FC 1

Republic FC 2
SF City FC 5

SF City Man of the Match:
Ben Brewster