Following a disappointing 3-1 defeat Wednesday night against the visiting Kitsap Pumas (Kitsap), as part of a third round matchup in the 2016 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup tournament, the only conclusion to draw was what a massive missed-opportunity it was for the Sacramento Republic (Republic) given what was at stake.
What was at stake you might ask? How about an opportunity to play a fourth-round U.S. Open Cup matchup against the Seattle Sounders of Major League Soccer (MLS) on June 15? For a club like the Republic who have aspirations to join MLS, the loss and the manner in which it came was surprising given how well the club has played.
From the opening whistle, Kitsap just seemed to want it more. The visitors had nine shots on goal compared to just four from the Republic. Not to take anything away from Kitsap, but the Republic have played six matches in less than three weeks. You got to wonder if fatigue played a role in the sluggish performance.
“Yes, it has [played a role]”, said Republic Manager Paul Buckle. “But at the same time, we had a good enough side [to win]. We’re not a team or group that will make excuses.”
It’s obviously painful for the players and coaches to lose because they knew what was at stake, but you got to believe it’s equally disappointing for the club’s management who would have only benefited from the exposure and hype of a head-to-head U.S. Open Cup fixture with an elite MLS club like the Sounders. You could sense the disappointment from Buckle.
“You can’t make two mistakes like we did in quick succession and expect to go through in the Cup”, said Buckle. “They punished us and deserved to go through…we congratulate them. I think it’s the first big disappointment in quite a while, but this happens in football and you have to recover.”
Republic Right Back Emrah Klimenta, fresh back from being on loan with the Montenegro National Team, echoed Buckle’s sentiment. “To lose knowing that we would have played the Seattle Sounders first-team in the next round is pretty disappointing. All the guys are devastated. [With] Open Cup, you always like to advance as far as you can and play an MLS team and hopefully beat an MLS team…[it] looks good for yourself, for the team and in general.
Beyond the exposure, hype and optics that would have come with a match with the Sounders, it would have also been another chance to see how the Republic stack up to the highest-level of soccer competition in the U.S. The Republic recently played well against Liverpool U21s and it’s a shame fans won’t see how they would have faired against what will probably be the Sounders best lineup. This is why the loss isn’t just any loss.
However, the Republic have no time to dwell on it as rivals LA Galaxy II come to town this Saturday. The club will recover and has shown resolve following difficult losses. Still, getting bounced from the U.S. Open Cup tournament the earliest ever in franchise history (Republic have advanced to the fourth-round in 2014 and 2015), leaves everyone wondering what might have been.
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