SACRAMENTO — The Los Angeles/Sacramento sports rivalry now extends beyond basketball.
In front of a sellout crowd of 20,231 at Hughes Stadium, Thomas Stewart and Rodrigo Lopez scored to help Sacramento Republic FC to a 2-1 win over LA Galaxy II in a tense affair that featured multiple altercations between the two teams.
The win — which elevated Sacramento (4-3-1) into a tie for fourth place in the league table — came in its third match of the season against the Galaxy II.
“(It felt) like a rivalry. There’s no other way to put it,” said Sacramento midfielder Lopez. “Since that first game in LA, we were going at it. Hard tackles, guys getting in each other’s faces. That’s what you want to see in a rivalry. You want to see that, and hopefully it continues to grow.”
Republic FC head coach Preki added: “It was a hard fought game, both teams worked hard. They made it difficult on each other. And I felt that certainly we made it really hard on ourselves. We started the game pretty good and scored a really good goal, but for whatever reason we make one mistake or two mistakes and we give up a goal.”
Just seven minutes into the game, defender Harrison Delbridge played a left-footed long ball over the top of the Galaxy back line.
Stewart deftly took the ball off his chest and, seeing L.A. keeper Cody Laurendi off the goal line, chipped the ball from 25 yards over Laurendi and into the back of the net to give Republic a 1-0 lead.
But that lead would be short-lived as, nine minutes later, Galaxy defender Kyle Venter headed the ball into far corner of the net when Rafael Garcia found him in the box with a driven, out-swinging cross after Venter had stayed forward following a set piece.
Although the match was wide open and played at a frenetic pace, the half finished 1-1 thanks to good goalkeeping from each team.
The match continued to be played that way until the 52nd minute when Galaxy captain Rafael Garcia was sent off due to a shoving match that involved all 22 players on the field.
From here, L.A. bunkered, attempting to preserve the road draw with a disadvantage in numbers.
It wasn’t to be, however, as in the 67th minute, Sacramento substitute Dakota Collins was brought down at the top of the box, setting up a free kick from 18 yards out.
Lopez stepped up and drilled a low, hard shot into the bottom right corner of the net which sent the crowd into a frenzy that culminated with a stadium-wide “BEAT L.A.!” chant.
“It’s another goal. I guess it’s a little more special because it’s a winning goal, but to be honest, I care more about the victory and the result of the game,” Lopez said. “We’ve been working extremely hard all year. We’re finally starting to click. This was a very important game.”
A man down, and a goal down, L.A. never seriously threatened the Republic goal, and the match finished 2-1 for Sacramento’s second win over L.A. in three tries this season.
The third match was a draw, giving the Republic a 2-0-1 record against the Galaxy this season, and ensuring that they will win the inaugural season series between the two teams.
“All three games against the Galaxy, I thought we were pretty decent,” Preki said. “All three games we worked really hard. Let’s not forget, that they’re a pretty good team and they worked hard.”
Notes: Sacramento captain Justin Braun made his first appearance since he injured his hamstring April 13 against this same L.A. squad in Carson. … Republic FC starting goalkeeper Jake Gleeson came out at halftime after he injured himself on a mishit drop kick. … The crowd of 20,231 tied the USL PRO regular-season record that Sacramento set April 26 in its home opener. … Coming into the game, the Republic accounted for 26 percent of USL PRO’s total attendance despite playing just two home games.
— Reach Evan Ream at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @EvanReam