Sacramento was back in town this weekend for the second leg of the Donner Pass Derby. This is our oldest rivalry that dates back to before Reno even had a team. It was week seventeen of the USL Championship.
A couple of things before I get into the match. Los Unikos Del 68 didn’t show up for the match in favor of watching the Mexico game. It’s not surprising considering that they were all just in LA for a couple of Mexico games. I don’t think that there is anything wrong with them not showing up for games. It the past when they were with the Brigade and they didn’t show up for games in favor of supporting other teams some people were upset about it. There is a thought that people (especially in supporter’s groups) should support Reno 1868 FC above all other teams. That’s not how Los Unikos sees it and I think that should be respected. I don’t think that that thought process is a positive either. I think it limits what a supporter group does when considering the growth of the sport in the local community.
Another thing that I want to talk about happened at the pregame. Both the Battle Born Brigade (Reno 1868 FC supporters) and the Tower Bridge Battalion (Sacramento Republic FC supporters) decided to have their pregame at the same spot. I found out about this beforehand. I don’t know how many people know what was going on before they showed up. There never was a statement from the Brigade. I think that there should have been. I voiced my opinion about it privately to one of the Brigade leaders. Basically, I just didn’t feel comfortable with it. Apparently, both sides want to have a better relationship. Which I didn’t know until Friday night Saturday morning because none of it has been public. The last thing I heard about the Tower Bridge Battalion back in May was that they were going through a leadership change and might split. The pregame went fine. I didn’t see or hear of any major issues. I did have at least one conversation with a Sacramento fan. During the conversation, I felt like the guy was trying to talk down to me.
The only other issue I saw with Sacramento fans was that a couple of them were trying to heckle people from the brigade towards the end of the game. They sat one section over. I don’t know if they were trying to provoke anything. Only a couple of minutes after I was made aware of them they were being escorted out.
Something that I think needs to change for next season is that the derby needs a logo. I might do an unofficial one but I think it does need to be done. The other thing is that we need a trophy for this. I don’t think it is really an official rivalry without a trophy. I heard during the first season that the Sacramento fans would be creating one or something along those lines but nothing has happened.
Recap of the Donner Pass Derby up to this game: Both teams played in a doubleheader in Davis California during the Preseason. If I remember correctly Sacramento won both of those games. The first regular season game the two teams would play was in May. Reno won that leg of the Donner Pass Derby with a fairly dominant win.
Sacramento came into this week only 3 points (one win) behind Reno. Sacramento had just won their last league game against 6-0 against Tulsa. Reno had won their last game against Portland. Reno had been struggling going into the match. They hadn’t been playing consistently. They did improve a lot between the Phoenix and the Portland match. Reno would have to continue to play without Brian Brown. I thought it would be a close match. I thought Reno had momentum going into this one after a win only a few days prior. Also, JT was back from the US under 23 team.
The biggest thing I think that Reno struggled with last season was shooting the ball. They would be looking for the pass or perfect shot too much. They showed signs of this against Phoenix. They have shown signs of this when they don’t have Brian Brown. So that was a concern of mine going into this match.
What happened in the first half?
Reno would score 35 minutes in. At that point, Reno had been creating a lot of chances. The goal was scored by Raul Mendiola. The ball was passed to him as he was running into the box. The Sacramento back line did nothing to stop it. They all kind of just stood there and watched it happen. Raul basically went one on one with the keeper inside the box. I think he will score 9/10 times when he has space inside the box.
Sacramento had a chance in the 38’ but failed to convert. They made a lot of short passes during the play. They had a lot of one touches. None of the Sacramento players really had control of the ball from 10 yards out of the box in. The shot had no control to it. He basically was trying to tip/redirect it into the net. The ball went well above the net and into the fifteenth row. I think Reno’s defense did a solid job during that play to mark and stay on their man. Doing that didn’t let Sacramento have the time or space to control the ball.
What happened in the second half?
The second half started with a foul. The foul was inside the box and Sacramento would get a penalty kick. After looking at the replay to me it doesn’t look like there is any contact. Whether there was or not Cameron Iwasa really sold the foul. JT did a good job with the penalty kick. JT forced Iwasa to go to his left. He did this by moving to his right and leaving the left part of the net with more space. It was a pretty standard Penalty kick. If Iwasa elevated the ball more by doing something like shooting at the corner I don’t think JT would have saved it. Equalizing the game there could have changed the entire game by giving Sacramento some momentum to start the second half. Instead, the save gave Reno more momentum early in the half.
In the 50’ Sacramento got a corner kick. It was fairly standard. The ball went into the box. It was headed towards the net. JT made a great save.
In the 60’ Reno would score again. This time the goal was scored by Sergio Rivas. Sam Gleadle would get the ball behind Sacramento’s back line. He would feed Rivas who was on his way to the box. He would redirect a bouncing ball towards the net. The keeper would come out to challenge for the ball but he went down. The ball went right over the keeper and into the net. Rivas also had to fight off a Sacramento defender who was trying to push him off the ball. I think it was a good effort by everyone involved in the play. It was a strong example of good teamwork. I also liked how Rivas wasn’t afraid to shoot the ball on that play.
Sacramento would have one more chance to score in extra time. The ball was put in the box. Villyan Bijev got the ball. Settled it down. Took a shot. The shot would be off target. He had space in the box which wasn’t common in this game. I don’t blame him for taking the shot. The game was about to end and he had space to do it. I probably would have had the team take every shot they could about 10-15 minutes sooner.
Sacramento got one yellow card to end the first half. I thought there should have been a lot more cards handed out on both sides. It seemed like the referee was calling penalties in batches. Like he would call two to three in a row against one team and then turn around and call two or three against the other team. His calls didn’t seem constant either. Reno’s second goal could also be argued that Sam Gleadle was offside. Honestly, it’s not the worst ref I have seen in a USL game. I would give the officiating 3/10 overall.
After match thoughts
JT put on a good show for his return from the US under 23 team. He did look like he was playing better as a positional goalie. I think being called up to the US team helped him out with that. I think he might have gained some good experience and knowledge while being called up.
It was a good win. The team really played solid. Every day we beat Sacramento is a good day. I don’t have much to say about this one except I enjoyed it and we need to continue to play this way and rack up wins. Yes, we are in second but we are not secure where we stand. Seventh through second are all within one game of each other. I really think that this is the time of year where we need to start stringing wins together if we are going to make the playoffs. After the Phoenix match, there was a lot of doubt as to if we will make the playoffs. After this match, I have hope that we will make the playoffs. By the end of July, I think we will know if we are making the playoffs or not.
I think it is important for us to win without Brian Brown. What winning without him means for us is that we can win without relying on the performance of our top player. I think at this point in the season and as we move towards the playoffs that that is really meaningful. When he returns the team will be in better shape than when he left. I think that will mean that the team will no longer rely on him as much. Meaning that there won’t be as much pressure on him to perform at his best night in and night out. That will lead to him being able to find more open spaces, take more shots and hopefully help the team win as we move towards the playoffs.
#1 Phoenix Rising FC
#2 Reno 1868 FC
#3 Fresno FC
#4 Portland Timbers 2
#5 Austin Bold FC
#1 Tampa Bay Rowdies
#2 Indy Eleven
#3 New York Red Bulls 2
#4 North Carolina FC
#5 Nashville SC
Wednesday, July 3, 2019. Rio Grande Valley comes to Reno. The game will take place at Greater Nevada Field. Kickoff is set for 7:30. This week 18 matchup will be the first time Reno plays Rio Grande Valley this season.