Sunderland go down 1-0 to Sacramento Republic in opening game of US tour

Seb Larsson warming up for Sunderland on their tour of North America
Seb Larsson warming up for Sunderland on their tour of North America

The imminent transfer breakthrough which Sunderland are eyeing will come at an opportune moment for Dick Advocaat.

Short of numbers at this early stage of pre-season, Advocaat was again forced to adopt an attitude of make-do-or-mend in Sunderland’s first friendly defeat of the summer, here in California.

Sunderland head coach Dick Advocaat

Sunderland head coach Dick Advocaat

It was all very lopsided - Jermain Defoe on the left wing during the first half, young centre-half Tom Beadling at left-back, and then even more dramatically after the break, Liam Bridcutt and Jack Rodwell occupying the two full-back slots.

With Advocaat’s men just two friendlies down, it’s not a huge concern with minutes on the pitch - wherever they are playing - the most crucial aspect of proceedings for Sunderland’s players.

But with Sunderland still looking for three or four, at least until Jeremain Lens can rubber-stamp his move, then there’s little chance for Advocaat to fine-tune until then.

The absence of Adam Johnson, Patrick van Aanholt and Sebastian Coates from the trip to North America so far due to visa issues, only exacerbates the situation.

Advocaat will hope for much, much better when Sunderland face Mexican outfit Club de Futbol Pachuca on Friday.

Chris Young, SAFC reporter

It perhaps explained why Sunderland fell away in the second half of proceedings so dramatically in the early hours of this morning after they had been reasonably sharp during the opening 45 minutes.

One re-jig too many ruined any continuity and allowed Sacramento Republic to cut Sunderland open with alarming regularity after the break.

It was alarming too. It could easily have been three or four to the hosts, who are remember, operating in the third tier of the American league structure.

Sunderland had passed the ball okay in the opening exchanges, even though they struggled to create anything clearcut.

Defoe produced the first meaningful effort on goal in the 25th minute when he shot just wide after finding half-a-yard in a scramble on the edge of the area.

Steven Fletcher, whose hold-up play was sharp, then shot straight at keeper Patrick McLain from 20 yards out.

But against the run of play, Sacramento came desperately close to opening the deadlock in the 35th minute when right-back Emrah Klimenta’s low cross from the right picked out striker Kaleemullah on the edge of the box, whose shot bobbled just past the post.

The woodwork denied Sunderland on the stroke of half-time after a surging run down the right from Adam Matthews culminated in the £2million new signing crossing to the back post.

Fletcher ran onto the cross and got his head to the ball, but it crashed back flush off the crossbar.

The depth - or lack of it - of Advocaat’s options was demonstrated at the interval when he made four changes.

But they were not like-for-like replacements, with Jack Rodwell and Liam Bridcutt operating at left-back where they were predictably exposed.

Lee Cattermole side-footed a shot a couple of yards wide from the edge of the box just after the restart, when Will Buckley’s cross was cleared out to him.

At the other end, a vicious shot from the edge of the area by Max Alvarez just cleared the crossbar.

But that was a warning of what was to come, with Sacramento opening the scoring in the 58th minute when substitute Cameron Iwasa hit a low shot from the edge of the area, just minutes after coming on.

Vito Mannone was perhaps unsighted, but he couldn’t get down to it and the ball snuck into the far corner.

Alvarez should have made it 2-0 moments later when he went clean through, but his attempted chip over Mannone was saved by the Italian.

Sunderland’s makeshift full-backs continued to be caught out though - Thomas Stewart firing just over after Bridcutt was out of position in the 65th minute.

Duncan Watmore was introduced from the bench and quickly made an impression; surging inside off the left and hitting a low shot which McLain managed to gather with his body behind the ball.

Mannone was fortunate that the referee showed a jot of common sense with 10 minutes to go after the Italian handballed outside the area to deny Alvarez getting to the ball.

In a competitive game, Mannone would have faced referee, but he was spared with a yellow card.

Again though, Bridcutt was vulnerable as a makeshift right-back with Joaquin Rivas getting away from him down the touchline in the 82nd minute.

Rivas was allowed to get a cross in which found Adnan Gabeljic, whose shot on the turn clipped the top of the crossbar.

Advocaat will hope for much, much better when Sunderland face Mexican outfit Club de Futbol Pachuca on Friday.

Sacramento: McLain, Klimenta, Daly, Vukovic, Kiffe, Mirkovic, Barrera, Guzman, Alvarez, Kaleemullah, Stewart.

Sunderland: Mannone, Matthews (Buckley 46), Beadling, Brown, O’Shea (Bridcutt 46), Cattermole, Rodwell, Larsson, Giaccherini (Wickham 46), Defoe (Watmore 66), Fletcher (Graham 46). Sub not used: Pickford.