Soccer: Fuego lose to Sacramento Republic

Fresno Fuego showed signs of strength and athleticism Thursday night against the United Soccer League’s Sacramento Republic FC but couldn’t hold on to their rivals, losing 5-3 in penalty kicks in the second-annual Highway 99 Derby.

It was the third preseason match for the Fuego, who controlled much of the of the first half with midfielders Elijah Martin and Felipe Oliveira causing trouble for the Republic FC back line.

Milton Blanco put Fresno in front in the 25th minute, scoring on a 20-yard shot that took a deflection off a Sacramento defender and landed just inside the near post.

Republic FC stormed back after halftime, knocking at the Fuego’s door only to be denied by second-half goalie Kris Shultz. Sacramento finally got through in the 85th on Harry Williams’ goal.

No overtime was played as the match went straight to penalties to decide a winner after 90 minutes.

In penalties, Fresno converted its first three chances before Martin’s penalty was blocked by Dominik Jakubek. Sacramento’s Derek Foran scored next to win the Cup in front of an announced crowd of 3,795.

The two teams played to a 1-1 draw last season.

Soccer action continues at Chukchansi Park on March 24, when Liga MX club’s León and Atlas go toe to toe in an exhibition.

The Fuego open the Premier Development League at home May 6 against the Burlingame Dragons.

Angel Moreno: 559-441-6401, @anhelllll