(FOX40.COM) — It was a packed house at Heart Health Park on Saturday night as Sacramento Republic FC began their playoff journey with a quarterfinal match against New Mexico United.
The clubs had met twice before, with New Mexico taking the first meeting before the second match ended in a draw. But in the playoffs, there are no draws. It’s win or go home.
A raucous crowd set the tone for the Indomitable Club early, but some sloppy play to begin the match indicated that playoff jitters were getting to the number-one team in the Western Conference.
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But that was all put to rest in the 13th minute when a spectacular header from Conor Donovan reached the back of the net to give Republic FC a 1-0 lead. A beautiful cross from Rodrigo Lopez met Donovan’s head perfectly, and the North Carolina-born defenseman delivered.
However, New Mexico United wouldn’t go down without a fight. The team dominated possession throughout the match (New Mexico- 61%, Sacramento- 39%) and took more shots than Republic FC (11-7).
In the 25th minute, the Albuquerque-based squad almost scored on a corner kick, but an amazing save from Golden Glove winner Danny Vitiello kept the score in Republic FC’s favor.
Forward Sergio Rivas had another chance to tie up the score for New Mexico United in the 28th minute, but just missed the left post.
The second half began much like the first with both teams having sloppy moments that neither could capitalize on, which turned the match into a defensive effort.
However, Republic FC have thrived in matches like these all season long, and the team did what was necessary to continue their postseason journey. The match fittingly ended on a Vitiello save after New Mexico was able to take a corner kick in the fifth minute of stoppage time.
Next up for the Sacramento Republic is a familiar foe, San Antonio FC.
The two clubs played each other twice this season, with Sacramento winning the first match 3-1 and then coming to a draw in the second match.
After a 1-0 quarterfinal win over the Colorado Switchbacks, the San Antonio FC heads to the West Coast for a semifinal match against Republic FC. The winner of that match moves on to the USL Conference Championship to play either San Diego Loyal SC, Phoenix Rising FC, or Orange County SC.
All Republic FC playoff matches can be seen on FOX40.com or in the FOX40 app.