Sacramento Republic ended their two game road trip this past Sunday with a loss to Portland Timbers 2 at Merlo Field. The Republic entered the match as the last remaining team nof to give up any goals this season but would leave Portland with a 1-0 loss. Even with their first loss of the season, Sacramento only remains two points behind Western Conference leaders Los Angeles Galaxy II.
Here are three things we learned from the Republic's first loss of the season.
1. Despite the missteps, the Republic defense is strong.
It was definitely frustrating to see Derek Foran not clear away the ball that allowed Timbers 2 forward Kharlton Belmar to score early in the second half.
I felt that the defense looked shaky during the first half. Chris Christian and Derek Foran didn't look comfortable with the pace of Kharlton Belmar and often misjudged when to pass or send the ball back to Dominik Jakubek for a clearance.
The latter part of the first half looked better, as the defense was able to calm down and keep possession. In fact, the Republic only allowed two shots all game, but unfortunately one of those found the back of the net. Sacramento still leads the league in fewest goals conceded -- along with Vancouver Whitecaps 2, with one goal allowed this season.
2. Scoring is really hard for the Republic.
You'd think Tommy Thompson and Adam Jahn coming over on loan from the San Jose Earthquakes that would create goals galore. However, despite the obvious talents of Thompson, the Republic still have a very difficult time putting the ball in the net. With only two goals in four games, the Republic need answers.
I'm not sure if the problem is with personnel or tactics, but the Republic haven't been a prolific scoring team since early last season. Sure, it doesn't help when your top goal scorers leave for other teams before the season begins. It also doesn't help when referees take away four goals this season for offside calls (more on that later).
I think the most obvious answer is the coaching style of Paul Buckle. Ever since he took over last season, the Republic goal production has decreased. The Republic under Preki averaged 1.66 goals per match, but under Buckle the scoring has fallen to 1.2 goals per match. There's no doubt that Buckle is a defensive minded coach. Under Preki the team gave up an average of 1.12 goals per match, but under Buckle the team averages .61 goals conceded per match.
They say that defense wins championships, and I'm willing to find out if that is the case for the Republic. It may be frustrating at the moment, but it's still early in the season.
3. The officiating has become a real problem.
I understand that calls can't always go the Republic's way, but the officiating was a little lopsided on Sunday. Taking a closer look at the goal from Timbers 2, we can see that Derek Foran was clearly fouled by Kharlton Belmar.
Clearly Belmar was nowhere near the ball when he initiated contact with Foran.
What is less clear is the red card given to Adam Jahn for sliding into the Timbers 2 goalkeeper. I can see that the attempt by Jahn did deserve a card, but I believe that a red card is excessive.
Playing down a man clearly hindered the Republic's already lackluster attack and sealed the victory for Timbers 2.
What are your thoughts on last Sunday's loss in Portland? Sound off in the comments below.