Republic FC’s maddening failure to finish plays continued to plague the defending USL champions Saturday night at Bonney Field.
Sacramento fell 1-0 to the Austin Aztex despite outshooting the visitors 20-4 in front of an announced sellout crowd of 11,442.
It was only the second time in two years that Sacramento was shut out in a USL match at their Cal Expo stadium. The previous scoreless effort came last season in a 0-0 draw with 2014 regular-season champion Orlando City, now a Major League Soccer team.
Austin’s Kris Tyrpak scored in the 58th minute on an assist from Max Gunderson. It was Aztex’s only shot of the second half.
“That’s football,” Republic FC coach Preki said. “At the moment we’re having a tough time putting the ball in the net. We can’t find the final touch, the final play.
“You’ve got to give Austin a lot of credit. They came here with an idea to defend deep and catch us on a break one time, and that’s what happened. We fall asleep for a second, and we pay for it.”
Meanwhile, Sacramento shot high, low and wide. When its shots were on frame, Austin goalkeeper Devin Perales cleaned up. He had four saves.
Republic FC had nine first-half shots and 11 after the break.
Forward Cameron Iwasa back-heeled a ball into the net in the 20th minute for Republic FC, but he was offside and the goal was nullified. Iwasa also had a header on frame corralled by Perales in the 56th minute.
“Things don’t seem to be going our way right now,” said Republic FC captain Justin Braun. “I thought tonight we pushed hard and created chances. Unfortunately, they get one chance and they score a goal and we weren’t able to get one. … If we keep coming out and playing the way we are capable of, the wins will come.”
Preki thinks his forwards need to be more physical near the goal.
“We need to be harder in the box, because the guys on the outside are busting their tails in creating things for us,” he said.
With a win, Republic FC could have moved back into first place in the Western Conference after the Seattle Sounders FC 2 (6-4-2, 20 points) lost 5-1 to the Tulsa Roughnecks on Friday night. It was Seattle’s first home loss.
Republic FC (6-6-1, 19 pts.) remains in second place but is now tied with the Los Angeles Galaxy II (6-4-1), though LA has played two fewer matches. Austin (5-6-1, 16 pts) moved into a tie for fifth place.
“The league is definitely better this year,” said Braun, who picked up his fifth yellow card of the season in the second half and must sit out the next match. “We’re just focused on coming in every game and winning and, hopefully, the points will take care of themselves. Obviously we want to be in first place, that’s the goal. Hopefully we get there. There are a lot of games left.”
Earlier in the day, Republic FC announced the signing of midfielder Danny Barrera, a three-year North American Soccer League veteran.
He entered early in the 60th minute for Octavio Guzman and bolstered a midfield that was missing starters Rodrigo Lopez and Ivan Mirkovic, both of whom were serving suspensions.
Republic FC will play four of its next five USL matches on the road starting next Saturday at Arizona United SC.