Expect better performances from Republic FC than the one the defending USL champion offered in its season opener Saturday night. Coach Preki certainly is.
“We’re going to get better,” Preki said after watching the Republic surrender four second-half goals to fall 4-2 to the Seattle Sounders FC 2, playing its inaugural match as a USL member, before an announced crowd of 2,951 at Starfire Stadium.
“It’s the first game,” Preki said. “We’re still a good team with a lot of new guys. It takes time for us to jell. I believe in my guys. It’s a long season.”
Preki cited ineffective midfield play in a game Seattle led 4-1 until midfielder Octavio Guzman blasted in a free kick in the 90th minute.
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“We were better than them in the first half,” Preki said of a 0-0 first half when both teams put four shots on goal. “But we weren’t as good as we could have been.
“The result in my opinion does not reflect the way the game was. But if you defend like we did in the second half, you don’t win.”
Seattle scored three goals in a 27-minute span starting with Andy Craven’s chip shot from 15 yards that floated over goalkeeper Patrick McLain in the 49th minute, the first goal in Sounders FC 2 history.
What went wrong?
“Unforced turnovers in the middle of the park and soft defending on the first goal,” Preki said.
In the 64th minute, Republic FC evened the match when forward Justin Braun gathered a bouncing ball at the top of the box and rocketed a shot past goalkeeper Charlie Lyon.
Six minutes later, and barely a minute after he had entered the game, Seattle’s Sam Garza took a pass on the run from Pablo Rossi and punched it in from 12 yards out for a 2-1 Seattle lead.
In the 76th minute, after James Kiffe was issued a yellow card for a push in the back, Rossi put Seattle ahead 3-1 with a direct free kick from 26 yards away.
“I disagree with the decision the referee made,” Preki said. “The ball went out of bounds and he called a foul. Nobody had a chance to make a play on that ball. The ball was already gone. But sometimes we have to live with bad decisions. We all make mistakes.”
Seattle made it 4-1 in the 89th minute when midfielder Vic Mansaray, unmarked on the left sideline, dribbled in and sent a crossing volley that substitute Cristian Roldan powered in from 16 yards.
In Sacramento’s best chance in the first half, newly acquired forward David Estrada worked a give-and-go with Kiffe, whose shot from 10 yards barely rolled left of the near post.
Estrada, whose signing was announced Friday by the Republic, is a five-year Major League Soccer veteran who began the 2014 season in Seattle before being traded to D.C. United.
“I thought David had an extremely good first half,” Preki said. “He died down a little in the second half. That’s understandable. He hasn’t trained, and he’s only been with us a few days.”
The Republic was missing five likely starters: midfielder and 2014 championship match MVP Rodrigo Lopez (strained right hip); last season’s USL Defender of the Year, Nemanja Vukovic (sports hernia); midfielder Max Alvarez (pelvic injury); forward Tommy Stewart (injured left foot); and midfielder Gilberto (on loan to a Brazilian club).
“That’s not an excuse,” Preki said of his depleted roster. “We had a good team on the field.”
Editor’s note: This story was updated on March 25 to correct that midfielder Rodrigo Lopez was the 2014 ULS Pro championship MVP.
SATURDAY AT LOS ANGELES
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