Coming into Sunday’s preseason friendly against UC Davis at Aggie Soccer Field, Sacramento Republic FC was 3-0 in friendlies against collegiate sides, beating Chico State, Sacramento State and UC Santa Barbara by a combined score of 14-2.
It was thus a shocker for the soldout crowd of 1,375 when the Aggies — who finished their fall season 9-9-3 — beat the USL PRO expansion Republic, 1-0, on a goal from soon-to-be senior defender Sam Hoeck.
But the game also served as a strong indication that support for soccer in the local community, including Sacramento, is thriving.
“It was great,” Republic FC head coach Preki said of the fan turnout. “I knew Davis was a big soccer community and it’s really nice to this kind of support.”
The crowd was evenly split between Sacramento supporters and Aggie supporters, with several verbal exchanges occurring within the close-confines of the stadium between the sets of fans.
One section of the stands was reserved for The Tower Bridge Battalion, an independent Sacramento supporters group who stood and sang for the entire match, along with someone dressed up as the official California State animal: the Grizzly Bear.
After UCD took the lead, on a cross from Eddie Manella that was redirected in the box to Hoeck who headed it home into an open net, the Battalion and the Aggie Pack went back and forth in a good-natured exchange of words.
“I just want to say thank you to the whole soccer community, not only in Davis, but the Republic group that came over,” said Aggie head coach Dwayne Shaffer. “I hope everybody continues to support, not only UC Davis soccer and athletics, but also that we all drive across the Causeway and support the Republic for every home game and sell that place out because it would be awesome to watch a game on a warm Sacramento night and be able to enjoy a high level professional soccer game.”
As the game inched closer and closer to the end, the UCD supporters got louder and louder, and when the final whistle blew the Aggie players and fans exalted in what was one of the biggest wins in the program’s history — despite being just a friendly.
“That’s the beauty of soccer, on any given day anybody can win in this game, and (Sunday) was our day,” Shaffer said. “Every kid I recruit wants to be a pro. That’s the idea. They have to have the mentality and that mindset. I thought that several of our guys … played as well as any of the pros.”
Notes: Sacramento opens its third-division USL PRO season March 29 against the LA Galaxy II. … The Republic FC will play at least their inaugural home game at Hughes Stadium in Sacramento before moving to a venue on the Cal Expo Fairgrounds. … Sunday’s game was played under NCAA rules, so when UCD goalkeeper Armando Quezada fouled former Chivas USA and Toronto FC striker Justin Braun in the box, and was given a yellow card, he was forced to substitute out on the ensuing penalty kick just before halftime. Shaffer elected to bring on John Piasta, a sophomore with zero minutes of NCAA play to his name. Still, Piasta saved the penalty, preserving the joint shutout.