SACRAMENTO — As the fourth forward on the depth chart, Chad Bartlomé had played just 106 USL PRO minutes heading into Sacramento Republic FC’s Saturday night game against Arizona United Soccer Club at Hughes Stadium.
But the 31 minutes he got in Sacramento’s fourth home game of the season — and the final one at Hughes — proved to be the difference between a loss and a tie as Bartlomé headed a ball home in stoppage time to level the game at 1-1.
“It was one of those weird games,” said Republic FC head coach Preki. “I don’t think we were particularly sharp on the night, not the way we have been as of late. I still feel we created enough to score a couple of goals but unfortunately (Saturday), we didn’t. I’m going to give our guys a lot of credit for not giving up.”
After an uneventful first half in which goalkeeper Dominik Jakubek was forced to make only one save, a momentary lapse cost the Republic (6-3-2) late in the second half.
While backed up in their own end, a Sacramento defender played the ball onto the feet of Rodrigo Lopez, who took a heavy first touch and was forced to take down Arizona’s Schillo Tshuma, who intercepted the ball at the corner of the box, creating a dangerous free kick opportunity for Arizona (3-5-2).
Left back Scott Morrison then whipped in an in-swinging, driven free kick with his left foot that smashed off the cross bar as Jakubek dove in vain to try to save it.
With the Republic keeper on the ground after his save attempt, the ball rebounded to defender London Woodberry, who was able to head it into an empty net, bringing out a chorus of boos from the sellout crowd of 20,231.
From then on, United bunkered behind the ball and attempted to preserve the lead with what Preki called “time wasting,” leading to more than seven minutes of stoppage time.
Some solid build-up play eventually led to a corner kick in the 94th minute that Lopez, Sacramento’s captain, swerved into the near post.
Beating his man, the substitute Bartlomé snapped a header to the far post and then took off his shirt in exuberance, celebrating the goal with his teammates in front of the Tower Bridge Battalion supporters’ section.
“(The result) felt good, just because we weren’t the greatest (Saturday) and things weren’t going our way,” Lopez said. “I felt like we started the game off really well and were having our way with them, but then we kind of let go of the gas and they were able to get into the game and take control a little bit.
“It wasn’t good enough from most of us, to be honest. When you’re not having a good game as a team, a tie is good for us. We didn’t lose, which is important.”
Note: Republic FC’s next home game, on June 20 against the Colorado Rapids Reserves, will take place at the newly constructed 8,000-capacity Bonney Field on the Cal Expo Fairgrounds in Sacramento.
— Reach Evan Ream at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @EvanReam