SACRAMENTO — Fielding a completely different starting 11 than the team that drew USL PRO-leading Orlando City on Thursday night, Sacramento Republic FC fell 2-1 to Rangers FC of Scotland on a stoppage-time winner from substitute Ian Black at Bonney Field.
The game was the first of three friendlies scheduled within the next week against British opposition — the Republic also will take on English Premier League club West Bromich Albion on Monday and Friday.
“It’s demonstrative of how we are already perceived in the football community that teams are prepared to travel across the Atlantic to come to this first-year franchise and get a game,” said technical director Graham Smith, a former player at West Brom. “For these teams, it’s a very, very important phase of their preparation for the forthcoming season.”
Currently sitting in the second division of Scotland, Rangers are 54-time Scottish champions but were liquidated in 2012 after financial difficulties and were forced to re-enter in the fourth division.
Despite their current lower-division status, the club still maintains a strong following and is a favorite to get promoted for the third consecutive year.
“For us, we’re very proud to invite these clubs in,” the former goalkeeper said. “It’s an opportunity to give the young players and the inexperienced players a chance to get experience against what is perceived as better-class competition.”
After an open, but scoreless, 45 minutes, a Republic corner kick was headed out by a Rangers defender to the top of the box straight to midfielder Carlos Martinez.
Martinez trapped the ball, opened his hips up and side footed a half-volley into the upper right hand corner of the net on the last kick of the half to put the Republic up 1-0 heading into the break.
With a corner kick of its own right out of halftime, however, substitute defender Darren McGregor rose highest to head the Glasgow-based club level, to the disappointment of most of the sellout crowd of 8,000.
The comeback for the Scottish side was completed in second-half stoppage time when former Vancouver Whitecaps forward and Scotland captain Kenny Miller found himself open on the right side of the Republic’s 6-yard box.
Miller drove in a low cross that was side-footed in from close range by Ian Black to win the game for the European side in front of the large section of Rangers fans who had come from as far as Canada to support their club.
Note: The match was designated as Caped Crusader night, which celebrated courageous acts and the lives of children with special needs or life-threatening illnesses. Republic FC players, along with children selected from local nonprofit organizations, wore capes out to the pre-match anthems to support the Capes4Heroes charity.
— Reach Evan Ream at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @EvanReam