In front of a sell-out crowd of 1,375 at Aggie Soccer Field in Davis, Calif. Sunday, Sacramento Republic FC dropped their second and final public preseason friendly 1-0 to the UC Davis Men's soccer team.
Despite dominating the majority of the possession and creating far more chances than the collegiate side, the Republic fell behind in the 65th minute when Davis junior Eddie Manella drove in a left-footed in-swinging cross into the Sacramento penalty area that was deflected over goalkeeper Jake Gleeson leaving Aggie junior Sam Hoeck free to head home into an empty net from just six yards out.
"I thought, apart from a couple silly mistakes, we dominated the game," Republic FC head coach Preki said. "We had many, many chances. Sometimes you don't put them in and you get punished by one mistake and that's what happened."
The game started out well for the Republic who dictated the tempo of the game from the get-go while UC Davis was forced to play with 10 men behind the ball and hope to catch Sacramento on the break.
The Aggies nearly did in the 10th minute when Sacramento-native Matt Wiesenfarth found himself alone behind the Republic back line, but Gleeson was able to get low to save Wiesenfarth's attempt.
The game then slowed down, with Sacramento content to utilize their patience to pick and choose points to go forward.
Former Chivas USA and Toronto FC forward Justin Braun was instrumental in creating chances, dropping back into the midfield to collect the ball at his feet and turn and run at defenders.
He did just this in the 26th minute, finding Northern Irish trialist Thomas Stewart 12 yards from goal, but Stewart was only able to hit his shot directly at UCD goalkeeper Armando Quezada.
Just before the halftime whistle, Braun again found himself near the goal, this time after a poor back pass from a Davis defender.
The Salt Lake City-native lofted the ball over Quezada and was promptly taken out while the goal-bound ball was cleared off the line.
The referee signaled for a penalty and showed Quezada a yellow card. Because the game was played using NCAA rules, Davis head coach Dwayne Shaffer was forced to substitute his keeper, electing to bring on sophomore John Piasta who hasn't yet played a single minute of college soccer.
Midfielder Rodrigo Lopez elected to take the spot kick, sending a low drive to Piasta's left.
The untested goaltender guessed right and parried the ball back into the field of play leading to a scramble in the box that saw a Republic player rocket the ball off of the crossbar just before the referee signaled to end the half.
The second half saw similar domination in possession, but fewer chances as Davis elected to continually substitute players in and out, while the clearly-tired Sacramento side only used four subs.
"I thought the team played well," said Lopez. "We're tired. We've been doing double days. Our legs are a little heavy. We have a day off tomorrow. I think guys just need to relax and have a good time with their families or whatever it is and clear their head a little bit and be ready to work on Monday."
"I think we're barely starting to find our chemistry," Lopez added. "The first couple of games we did really well, and I don't think we did bad today. We just didn't get a result. I missed a penalty. It was just that type of day where you know you're not going to get a victory."
The game felt like a league cup game in which the lower division side scores and defends to preserve a victory that they probably would only get one time if the teams played 10 games.
After the 65th minute when Hoeck put the Aggies up, it just felt like it wasn't Sacramento's day, and other than a few close shots from Stewart in the last two minutes, they didn't come very close to equalizing.
When the final whistle blew, the Davis team stormed the field and celebrated their achievement, but for Sacramento, it was just another game in their preparations for their USL PRO season.
"We have ups and downs, but that's normal with a new group and a lot of young guys around," Preki said. "That's going to happen occasionally. Overall we're happy with the process."
Notes: The loss dropped the Republic to 4-2 in the preseason. They lost 2-0 to the San Jose Earthquakes but beat NCAA sides Chico State (2-1), Sacramento State (6-0), and UC Santa Barbara (6-1) as well as USL PDL's Ventura County Fusion (3-2)...Serbian trialist Ivan Mirkovic was sent off in the 70th minute for a nasty studs up challenge. As it was just an exhibition, Sacramento was able to replace him and finish the game with the full 11 players...The Republic open their season March 29 against LA Galaxy II at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif.