SAN FRANCISCO — In its stellar inaugural season thus far, Sacramento Republic FC has become accustomed to dominating opposing teams, just as it did Wednesday night at Kezar Stadium.
The difference between this game and all of its other games was, of course, that Sacramento was taking on the San Jose Earthquakes, its MLS affiliate that plays two divisions above Republic’s USL PRO.
Despite dominating the match, the Republic fell 2-1, which eliminated it from the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in the fourth round.
“I thought the team came out and we played well. I think you watch that game, you’re going to see that there’s only one team on the field that was trying to play soccer,” said Republic FC captain Justin Braun. “Unfortunately we weren’t able to get the win but that happens in soccer.”
For the first five minutes, it looked like the MLS side was going to easily dominate the game as Earthquakes midfielder Khari Stephenson forced a save out of Republic keeper Dominik Jakubek from 25 yards in the first few seconds of the game.
Four minutes later, Jakubek was called into action again to make two point-blank saves to keep the underdog Sacramento in the game early.
From there, the Republic began to have the better of the play, finding spaces down the San Jose wings and delivering a multitude of unsuccessful crosses until its good form was rewarded in the 42nd minute with a goal from Braun.
Braun, who played in MLS for the previous six years, made a near-post run and headed a cross from Chad Bartlomé into the back of the net, sending the traveling contingent of roughly 500 Republic fans into a frenzy.
All the good work from Sacramento was undone two minutes later, however, as San Jose was awarded a penalty kick even though defender Clarence Goodson headed the ball in the back of the net on a corner.
Both teams protested and ultimately Bartlomé was shown a yellow card while Stephenson stepped up to the spot and blasted an unstoppable shot into the upper right corner to level the match just before halftime.
The second half continued with more Republic dominance, so it was somewhat of a surprise when the Earthquakes took the lead in the 73rd minute.
Midfielder Cordell Cato took advantage of a sloppy Sacramento turnover to nutmeg Jakubek, who had stoned him five minutes earlier, for the winning goal of the match.
“I thought it was a bright performance for us,” Sacramento head coach Preki said. “We came out, worked extremely hard, (we) had a lot of good moments in terms of build-up play, in terms of creating opportunities. I thought we showed well tonight.”
After the goal, San Jose bunkered in while the Republic sent in a barrage of crosses and shots that had most of the 3,788 fans in attendance on the edge of their seats.
Sacramento continued to attack, even after Bartlomé was shown his second yellow card in the 79th minute, leaving Republic FC to play the rest of the game down a man.
But an upset was not in the books as the most-experienced side advanced, ending Sacramento’s seven-game unbeaten streak in all competitions.
“You look all around the field, there’s lots of things to take away,” Braun said. “We played well, we moved the ball well, we created lots of chances, we got a goal. I’m very proud of the team. We fought hard. We’re unfortunate to not walk away with the win tonight.”
Note: Davis native Adam Jahn, who had a stint with Sacramento earlier this year, did not dress for San Jose.
— Reach Evan Ream at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @EvanReam