Malcolm Dawson writes….we have Paul Pattison to thank for our first hand account of the second pre-season game and the first of a three game tour of North America. Paul was there and bumped into a few Sunderland fans including the wife of the club’s owner. Here’s his account of an experience that those of us on this side of the pond can relate to. A great day out and then we went to a football match!.
After a 3 hour drive from Half Moon Bay we finally made it to Sacramento. Drove by Capital and on to the Grid to start the day of with some brews at the Rind and Firestone brewery. Temperature is a pleasant 85F. Really mild for a summers day in Sacramento. The locals will be going round with their sweaters on. Did some sightseeing in Old Sacramento then headed off to the Bonn Lair Pub in East Sacramento. About 15 Sunderland fans in there. Good crack. After about 10 minutes in walks Ellis Short’s wife Eve. She was in meeting up with her girlfriends from the nearby University of the Pacific and taking them to the game. She was really friendly and had her picture taken with fans in the bar (see also https://safc.blog/2015/07/about-about-eve-owners-wife-joins-usa-red-and-whites-in-sacramento/). Excellent PR!
Seven o’clock and off to the game. Bonney Field is located in the California State Fairgrounds and has an amusement park behind one of the goals. It is a small stadium holding 11,000 fans and by kick off it was barely a third full with probably about 200 Sunderland fans in attendance. The atmosphere was totally flat. The only noise came from a about a hundred Republic Ultra fans and the screams coming from the amusement rides located behind one of the goals. Really weird atmosphere. Maybe the lack of atmosphere combined with jet lag impacted Sunderland’s display as it was a very anaemic performance. Not a lot to say about the game.
Possibly the highlight was Matthews performance who looks very good going forward and set up Sunderland’s only real chance of the game when Fletcher got on the end of one of his crosses only to see it bounce off the bar. He really was a handful going forward down the right wing.
All those contributing to the Sunderland Out West series belong to the Sunderland SAFC North American Supporters’ Association. Check out the association’s Facebook pages at https://www.facebook.com/safcnasa
The second half was horrible though I suppose having a back line of Rodwell, Brown, Beadling and Bridcott it was to be expected. Sacramento scored 15 minutes into the second half with a 20 yard shot from Iwasa. Mannone could and should have done better. After this goal Sacramento could easily have had 2 or 3 more and Mannone was fortunate to stay on after handling outside the box. Sunderland never really looked like scoring with their best effort in the second half coming from Watmore who came on for last 20 minutes, having a strong run into the box and finishing with a shot that the Republic keeper saved well.
An amusing incident in the second half occurred when Cattermole got booked. Everybody in one section of the crowd got a yellow card allowing them a free McDonalds, something the Republic do whenever an opposing player gets booked. Cattermole would prove to be be a very popular player if he played in the USL. All in all a very disappointing performance considering the Standard of the opposition but to be fair the Republic played a tidy short passing game and were missing their best player Rodrigo Lopez. Still their recent home defeats suggest they are no better than the third tier English League in my view. This was a typical Sunderland away game. A great day spoilt by the actual match. Even though it is the start of the pre-season training and taking into account Sunderland’s lack of match fitness it is all are too obvious that there is a lack of pace throughout the team and the absence of real quality in midfield is frightening.
Anyway on to Friday. It will be interesting to see how Sunderland compete against Pachuca. Pachuca are a considerably stronger team than Sacramento, recently making it to the last 4 in the playoffs in Liga Mexico Clausura. They should be up for the game as they will playing infront of a large raucous Mexican crowd. I hope we are.