It wasn’t the way the Republic FC players wanted to send off their beloved coach in his last match. Certainly not against the Los Angeles Galaxy II, their bitter rivals. And not in front of a sellout crowd of 11,442 at Bonney Field and a television audience, too.
But when the match concluded Saturday night, the Galaxy II had handed Republic FC a 4-0 defeat ‑ the worst loss in Preki’s Sacramento reign.
“This is definitely not the way we wanted to let the boss go out,” said Republic FC defender Emrah Klimenta. “I’m sure he is disappointed, and we’re disappointed. But we played our hearts out. That’s football. Sometimes the result doesn’t go your way.”
The victory snapped the Galaxy II’s four-match losing streak to Sacramento that extended back to Sacramento’s 3-2 “Miracle at Bonney” win in last year’s USL playoff semifinals.
Jamie Villarreal scored a first-half goal and Ariel Lassiter, Andre Auras and Jack McBean added second half goals as Los Angeles (10-5-2, 32 points) moved into first place in the USL’s Western Conference.
Republic FC (9-7-3, 30 pts.) falls into a tie for second with the Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC (10-6-0, 30 pts).
Preki said his team made “silly mistakes” but he had no issue with their effort. He thought they may have been pressing because it was his send-off match.
“These guys, for sure, are aware of what’s going on with me,” said Preki, who is headed to the United Kingdom to coach a team he has yet to reveal. “They want to do well.
“But when you want to please somebody, for whatever reason, it works against you…It was hard for me to take it because of how hard they worked. But then there were moments where we take our foot off the pedal…and we pay a price for it. When we are on top of our game, we’re still the best team in the league.”
Republic FC came into the match with a 6-1-1 record all-time against the Galaxy II and appeared to be in a good position because several key Galaxy II players, including USL assists leader Raul Mendiola, did not make the trip. They played instead in the Galaxy’s friendly against Liga MX side Club America.
Galaxy II coach Curt Onalfo brought six players from the Galaxy’s academy program with the team. But LA didn’t allow a ball to enter its net, despite 17 Republic FC shots.
“It was one of those nights where nothing goes right for us and everything goes right for them,” said Republic FC captain Justin Braun. “They really only had those four shots, and they got four goals. It’s part of the game.
“We’ve got some time before our next USL game and some friendlies, so we have to regroup and come out stronger when we return.”
When they play their next USL match Aug. 1 against the Seattle Sounders 2 at Bonney Field, Paul Buckle will be in charge. He takes over as the new coach on Sunday.
While Preki looked angry immediately after the match, he soon was smiling as players, staff, fans and friends lined up to hug him and take photos with him.
The Tower Bridge Battalion presented him with Serbian and U.S. flags and a Battalion scarf.
Republic FC president Warren Smith said Preki will be fitted for a set of golf clubs once he settles into his new job in the United Kingdom. He also was presented a canvas of the team’s trophy celebration after winning last year’s USL championship at Bonney Field.
Despite the humbling defeat, Preki said he is leaving a franchise in a good place.
“The franchise is in a great position,” Preki said. “I feel it’s going to be better and better and better. Give them time. Once we get a green light for MLS, nobody is stopping this franchise. You could see tonight with our fans when we’re losing 4-0, they’re still there.”