I'll be honest. I've never felt as good about a defeat as I did after the Republic's 2-1 loss to the Earthquakes on Saturday. Of course, it never feels good to lose and I would definitely have preferred a win for the home team, but all things considered it was a match with many more positives than negatives. Here are some of my takeaways from last weekend's match.
In the preview to Saturday's game I mentioned that the Quakes were going be be a tough test for the Republic back line, and that was certainly the case. For the most part though, the defense put in an encouraging performance. While it is true that the team gave up two second half goals, for the most part the Republic defense played a solid game against MLS-level competition.
In the first half, the team took basically everything that the Quakes could throw at them, with the most dangerous shots on the Republic goal coming off a deflection and a late free kick. The center back tandem of da Fonte and Christian looked good and Klimenta dominated the right flank in general and Shaun Francis in particular.
The second half was a bit of a different story. Although the defense did not do a particularly poor job, both goals from San Jose came in the second 45 minutes after periods of prolonged and particularly intense pressure. The fact that it took such intense pressure for San Jose to make a breakthrough is encouraging. If it took that much for an MLS team to break through the Sacramento defense, which was fairly weakened through substitutions in the back line and at midfield, then that bodes well for how thing will go against USL competition.
More Pridham, Please
As the all-time leading goalscorer for Cal Poly, Mackenzie Pridham is pretty familiar with scoring goals. With goals being so hard to come by at the tail end of 2015, it was great to see the 25 year-old display such a nose for goal. It was great to see him open his account so early with the Republic.
Not only did he score Sacramento's lone goal of the night, but during his 45 minute shift he led the line well, made good runs in behind the back line, and generally caused problems for the Quakes. If that's what we can expect to see from him going forward, I say the Republic should remove that trialist label and sign him.
So can we get someone to sneak in a @SacRepublicFC contract for Pridham into the locker room at halftime?— IndomitableCtySoccer (@BlurbsIndomita) February 21, 2016
No Mirković Emergency
When it was announced on game day that Ivan Mirković was out with an ankle sprain, I figured it meant that Republic fans might be in for a bad time. However, the return of Octavio Guzman and some good defensive play from the back line mitigated the impact of the stalwart midfielder's absence.
Guzman's return to the field was particularly welcome, as he had not made an appearance for the Republic since August of 2015, when he was injured in a match against Seattle Sounders 2. Hopefully, for his sake and that of the team, he can get back to the way he was playing in 2015 and continue what would have been a good sophomore year.
Although the team would undoubtedly have fared better with Mirković on the field, the central midfield duo of Danny Barrera and Agustin Cazarez handled themselves well. Barrera showcased some strength on the defensive side of the ball to go along with his offensive chops and Cazarez played well despite not having spent much time centrally for Sacramento in the past 2 years.
With the two most difficult friendlies out of the way, the Republic now turn their attention to a slew of matches against college and PDL teams. The team will be playing 5 games in the space of 2 weeks, starting with matches against Sacramento State on Wednesday and Sonoma County Sol on Saturday.
What did you think of Saturday's match? Let us know in the comments below.