It was a draw, but it felt like a loss.
Sacramento Republic FC re-opened the 2020 USL Championship season with a 3-3 draw at a closed-door Papa Murphy’s Park against Tacoma Defiance Monday.
But while many would excuse any team for getting back into action while the coronavirus pandemic rages, on short rest, behind closed doors, in their first game back, the circumstances of the game left the home side with a sour taste in their mouths.
“It’s obviously not the result we were looking for, it’s obviously a disappointing result,” head coach Mark Briggs said. “I didn’t feel we managed the game as well as we should have, especially when we’re 3-1 up. I just felt we were sloppy all over. There’s a number of reasons for that, we have to figure out why that was the case.”
Tacoma took a surprise lead in the first minute of the game, Alec Diaz finishing off a team play to make it a quick 1-0. But a brace from Darek Formella and a goal from defender Tomas Hilliard-Arce on his debut for the club put Republic FC ahead 3-1 at halftime.
But with Sacramento seeming to cruise coming out of the break, Tacoma didn’t give up and found two more goals to tie up the game and split the points.
Hilliard-Arce didn’t mince words in assessing the performance.
“Frankly, an embarrassing performance,” he said. “I think the fans and the city deserve much more than that. That being said [we will] try to stay positive, take things away from the game that we can improve on, find some things that we did well, and moving on to the next game. Hat off to Tacoma for playing a great game, but again, completely unacceptable from us.”
Briggs was asked why Sacramento struggled to maintain a lead on the night.
“To be quite frank I think obviously fitness is going to play a part at some point because game fitness is different to your general fitness. So fitness does play a part at some point,” Briggs began. “But I just don’t think we were mentally engaged from start to finish. To concede a goal after 30 seconds tells you we weren’t mentally engaged. I don’t think they made that many adjustments, we were sloppy from start to finish, and that showed in front of goal. We missed two or three open goals, where we haven’t even hit the target. We haven’t been focused, we haven’t been engaged, and for me that was the main thing throughout the game.”
And while he was asked if the closed-door game, coronavirus restrictions and other conditions around our world hampered his team on the night, Briggs admitted the differences played a role.
“It’s been difficult,” he said. “It’s not been easy, obviously, and we weren’t coming out tonight expecting for it to be the perfection of a performance, everything to be top-drawer. There’s a lot of things that are happening in the world and happened at the stadium tonight that are a little bit different for the players, with preparation; myself, with preparation. It’s just a little bit different and a little bit unusual. That’s not an excuse — we have to be better. But I think it’s going to take a little bit for people to adapt and adjust to the new normal.”
Hilliard-Arce was pleased to score, but didn’t take much solace in it, considering the defense conceded three goals on the night.
“Trying to take away some positives, I’m happy with myself for getting on the end of one. My main priority is not letting in goals, so on the night I can probably say I failed there...Felt great to finally score. Wish the fans were out here to celebrate with them, but confident that they’re watching at home and we appreciate that support,” Hilliard-Arce said.
For once in this scheduled 2020 season full of short rest, Republic FC will get nearly a week to prepare for their next clash, Sunday against a big rival.
“Obviously a very disappointing result, so we get back to work tomorrow, we regroup and we refocus for Reno on Sunday,” said Briggs.
What do you think? Leave a comment below.