Miles Starforth’s match analysis: Sacramento Republic 0 Newcastle United 1

Gabriel Obertan and Massadio Haidara celebrate. Pic: Sacramento Republic FC/Douglas Taylor.
Gabriel Obertan and Massadio Haidara celebrate. Pic: Sacramento Republic FC/Douglas Taylor.

It was probably fitting that Newcastle United took on Sacramento Republic yards from a fun fair.

After all, following the club is long been likened to riding a rollercoaster.

Freddie Woodman. Pic: Sacramento Republic FC/Douglas Taylor.

Freddie Woodman. Pic: Sacramento Republic FC/Douglas Taylor.

A big wheel at the California State Fair towered over Bonney Field, and there were fireworks late in the game.

There were fewer fireworks on the pitch, where Sacramento – who moved the ball well and played at a good tempo – provided most of the excitement.

Newcastle spent much of the first half on the back foot, and they were indebted to Tim Krul and substitute goalkeeper Freddie Woodman – who came on after the break – for a series of saves.

United were too deep and struggled to get on the ball, though the pace of Gabriel Obertan led to some openings on the left.

Steve McClaren’s side were better in the second half, when Sacramento’s James Kiffe turned a Massadio Haidara cross from the left into his own net.

Haidara was later shown a red card for a high tackle on Danny Barrera.

The dismissal incensed McClaren and his staff, though the challenge, accidental or not, didn’t look good.

Newcastle, clearly, are a work in progress, and McClaren acknowledged the dominance of the home side – who had beaten Sunderland 1-0 at Bonney Field four days earlier – after the match.

“I thought Sacramento were very good,” said McClaren. “We watched the game against Sunderland, and said ‘this is not going to be an easy game’.

“And so it proved. Good ability, play football ... the coach (Paul Buckle) has done a great job getting them to play how they do.

“We had difficulties first half. We were too deep, no tempo.

“Second half, we pressed a little better but they still played well.”

McClaren wants his team to play from the back and move the ball forward quickly, but Sacramento pressed the defence well and limited their options.

This is where captain Fabricio Coloccini, still not fully fit, is needed given his ability to bring the ball out.

However, Coloccini – who has had a sore Achilles – won’t play in the final USA tour game against Portland Timbers tomorrow night given the artificial pitch at Providence Park.

The game also saw midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum make his debut, and Newcastle fans should see more of him in the remaining pre-season matches as McClaren fine tunes his selection for the season-opener against Southampton on August 9.

Given what we’ve witnessed so far, it’s likely that he will use a 4-2-3-1 formation.

But the make-up of his first Premier League starting XI is a long way to being decided.

Certainly, one of the first names on the teamsheet will be Jack Colback, who, despite being the team’s stand-in captain, wasn’t in the mood for talking to journalists as he left Bonney Field.

Still, Colback, one of the most consistent performers last season, did his talking on the pitch.

The midfielder was full of energy and running, and didn’t wilt in the heat.

Elsewhere, there are decisions to be made, and what hasn’t changed is the need for more players.

If the club can strengthen between now and the end of the transfer window, then this season’s rollercoaster might be a little more enjoyable.