Facing a rebuild following the 2021 season, the staff at Sacramento Republic leveraged Wyscout to find and build a roster for this season. They now face their biggest challenge, as they look to become the first lower division side to lift the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup since 1999.

Buoyed by a 2-0 victory against Northern California rivals San Jose Earthquakes of MLS in the round of 16, USL Championship side Sacramento Republic FC rolled into its quarterfinal Lamar Hunt US Open Cup match with a swagger. But a formidable foe stood between them and a shot at the semifinal - the Los Angeles Galaxy.

They needed a dream start. 

It was their 35 year old journeyman striker Rodrigo Lopez, their catalyst throughout the cup competition, who answered the call. Just three minutes into the match, through a centering pass from strike partner Luis Felipe, Lopez put the Republic ahead. 

Adversity struck, as it often does in football, when an own goal knotted it at one in the 18’.  But the club has a spirit about it, a relentless determination to fight for your brother next to you until the final whistle is blown. It’s what binds the team together on and off the pitch and it’s what has led this team throughout their 2022 Open Cup campaign.

“Our core identity is Indomitable. It is the idea of perseverance, resilience, and overcoming adversity. It is in the city motto, Urbs Indomita and is something very unique to Sacramento. Our team identity comes out of this and is our north star,” said General Manager Todd Dunivant. He plied his trade in MLS for 12 seasons, playing for five clubs including the Galaxy - where he won the Open Cup in 2005. He knows what success looks like in the cup. “We want to be a team that is difficult to play against, can find different ways to win, and doesn’t allow excuses to get in our way. We get on with it and keep going,” said Dunivant.

No one embodies that more than Lopez. He’s played for the club on three separate occasions, with stints in MLS and Liga MX scattered throughout his 17 year career. That indomitable spirit, an unshakable willingness to fight, that’s what drives this club and its players forward.

Our core identity is Indomitable. It is the idea of perseverance, resilience, and overcoming adversity. Todd Dunivant

The team answered the call, as Luis Felipe netted the winner in the 70’ to send the Republic on to the semifinal. A victory on the road in Southern California for the underdog Republic. But if you’d been paying attention during their cup run up to that moment, you’d know this squad doesn’t shy away from being labeled an underdog.

Although USL has seen tremendous growth since its inception in 1985, expanding to now feature 28 clubs in their top league, clubs often struggle to retain talent year over year. The league itself features a variety of player prototypes - from young talents who have fallen out from the top ranks of MLS, ex-collegiate players who just missed out on a chance in America’s top flight, to largely unscouted international players seeking an opportunity to make their mark on the sport. It’s a league rich with talent of all ages and nationalities. 

“The nature of USL involves more squad rotation, but we recognize the value of continuity,” said Dunivant. There is only so much talent to go around, and players often move between teams within USL from season to season. That leaves many forced to completely rebuild their squads at the start of every campaign. “During the 2021-22 offseason, we reshaped our squad in a major way and brought in 16 new players,” Dunivant said.

It became clear that it was time to shake things up and move in a new direction. We wanted to add leaders to our group, have a good locker room culture and ultimately bring in players that represent our values. Todd Dunivant

They went to the drawing board, albeit their digital board on Wyscout, which was filled with video and data on players from all across the globe. “Our primary focus is in the U.S. but we also look for players across the world,” Dunivant elaborated. “Wyscout allows us to do that in a way we otherwise couldn’t. We’ve used it for the Caribbean, Europe, Asia, Africa, Central America, and South America. Oceania also. I can’t think of a place we haven’t explored because of the platform.”

Wyscout allows teams to analyze and scout players from across the globe.

As important as it is to find players that ooze class, it’s just as important to find players that fit into the way the manager wants his team to play. “Last year was the first season we did not make the playoffs,” said Dunivant. “It became clear that it was time to shake things up and move in a new direction. We wanted to add leaders to our group, have a good locker room culture and ultimately bring in players that represent our values.” 

New Republic players like Damia Viader immediately come to mind. Viader was the defensive player of the season for USL League One championship-winning side Union Omaha. He featured prominently in the title winning side, was named the league's Defender of the Season and was the championship games MVP. 

A largely unheard of prospect, Viader once played for FC Barcelona’s famed La Masia. But he started his career in North America at Iowa Western Community College, not exactly top of mind when it comes to hotbeds for talent. He signed his first professional contract in 2020 with Union Omaha. He’s a young exciting talent, and Sacramento Republic had him at the top of their list.

Wyscout is a huge part of what we do. It’s been a tremendous tool for us and we lean on it every single day. Todd Dunivant

There’s also players like defender Jack Gurr, who was playing last season in Scotland’s top flight with Aberdeen before being scouted by Sacramento and signing this offseason. He joined countryman Danny Reynold’s, who wasn’t even playing professionally last season. A graduate of Cheltenham’s Academy who played his college soccer at Louisville, Reynold’s was playing for Southern States SC in 2021, which is an elite development club in Mississippi. 

“I think first and foremost, Wyscout does a fantastic job allowing us to analyze the player from a different perspective,” said head coach Mark Briggs. “They obviously give us statistical analysis on the amount of games he's played, areas of the field he covers,  different types of passes he makes... the amounts of passes he plays forward... All sorts of different statistical analysis. 

It just gives us a really good image, a really good package of what we want to see in the players that we're looking at, especially Dami and Jack.

We knew that we were getting two players that were very specific to the position we were looking for. We knew they had the qualities to play the position that we wanted, and that was due to the analysis of the stats that Wyscout had given us."

There was no stone left unturned by the staff when it came to scouting and match preparation.  “Wyscout is a huge part of what we do. It’s been a tremendous tool for us and we lean on it every single day,” Dunivant added. “We use Wyscout for recruiting purposes, for scouting, and for in-season analysis. The platform saves us a lot of time by quickly narrowing our search criteria and really improves efficiency across the board. There are an endless number of players to scout/analyze and Wyscout allows us to maximize our recruiting process.”

After their quarterfinal victory against the Galaxy, four-time US Open Cup winners and MLS powerhouse Sporting KC rolled into Sacramento to face the upstart Republic. The match remained in a 0-0 deadlock until 120’ had expired. It was penalties that would decide the fate of the Republic’s cup run, and to some extent the pride of lower division soccer in the United States. 

“The beauty of the Cup is upsets and seeing things you wouldn’t expect to see. Everybody can relate to the underdog story and the Open Cup is a platform that provides those opportunities. It’s unique to our sport,” said Dunivant. 

The Republic won 5-4 on penalties, and it was none other than Rodrigo Lopez who sent them through to the final with his last kick of the night. A truly unforgettable night for the club.  Although not a “compelling” game to many the casual fan, it spoke to a point that Dunivant and Briggs made- this team is willing to win by any means necessary. They are capable of it. They’re built for it. They can withstand extended bouts of pressure from an opponent with a wealth of attacking options like Sporting KC. Sure they can set up to score from open play, but they’re willing to sit back and defend like their livelihood depends on it. 

Because for journeymen like Lopez, it does.

This year's US Open Cup also speaks to something far greater than even Sacramento Republic. There has been unprecedented success by clubs from USL. Teams like Louisville City FC, Detroit City FC and the aforementioned Union Omaha all made deep runs in the cup this season, with Detroit City and Union Omaha beating MLS sides Columbus Crew and Minnesota United, respectively to make deep cup runs.

It’s the connection between players and clubs in USL that has lifted Sacramento, much like the spirit of their own team. “We’ve been overwhelmed with the support of the soccer community across the country, and we know we have one final challenge ahead of us,” said Dunivant. “We don’t know how the game will go, and we can’t predict the outcome…so we will lean into our Indomitable identity as we’ve done all tournament and be ready to respond to whatever happens."

Briggs added. “It’s just a culmination of all the work that the guys have put in this year in this competition. I think Wednesday is the ultimate challenge, the ultimate game that you want to be involved in as a player or as a coach. 

"And now we've given ourselves an opportunity to go and win a trophy and put ourselves down in a position that no other club has put themselves down at our level before.”

They’re flying the flag for lower division clubs in US Soccer, showing talent coupled with an indomitable spirit, can take you all the way to the top.  

Tune into the final of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup at 8pm EDT, September 7th on ESPN+.