ALBION’S unbeaten start to pre-season continued thanks to a Graham Dorrans penalty and a superb display from Boaz Myhill.
Dorrans deservedly fired the Baggies ahead on 13 after Victor Anichebe had been felled in the box by Nemanja Vukovic.
But as Albion – playing only their third pre-season game – began to tire, Myhill became an increasingly influential figure and pulled off a string of fine saves to keep the Californians at bay.
Alan Irvine’s side had to play the final eight minutes with ten men after new boy Craig Gardner was dismissed for a second bookable offence.
The first leg of Albion’s two-game double header against Sacramento kicked off against the backdrop of the California State Fair, with rides whizzing around behind Myhill’s goal.
Irvine started new signings Chris Baird, Sebastien Pocognoli and Gardner but Craig Dawson (thigh), who suffered a minor knock in training, missed out along with Gareth McAuley, Joleon Lescott (tight calves), James Morrison (knee) and Chris Brunt (groin). Ben Foster, who only reported for pre-season last Wednesday following his World Cup duty with England, also wasn’t involved.
Former US winger Predrag ‘Preki’ Radosavljevic, who had spells with Everton and Portsmouth, fielded a weakened team in Saturday’s 2-1 friendly defeat to Glasgow Rangers but picked arguably his strongest possible side against the Baggies.
For Albion, the match was all about improving fitness levels against a Republic team 19 games into their USL Pro League season, with Preki’s men sitting fourth in the third tier of the US soccer structure.
It was the Baggies who threatened first. Dorrans had a wicked 18-yard free-kick tipped away by home keeper Jake Gleeson before Claudio Yacob headed a decent chance over from the Scotland international’s corner.
Moments later, Gardner bundled the ball just wide from the overlapping Liam O’Neil’s right-wing centre.
But Myhill, who was born in California, was soon called into action. In the tenth minute, he comfortably dealt with Max Alvarez’s long-range effort before producing a much better save to tip over Emrah Klimenta’s rising 20-yard drive.
It took the tourists 13 minutes to break the deadlock. Anichebe was fouled in the box by Vukovic and Dorrans made no mistake from the spot, sending Gleeson the wrong way.
The former Livingston ace went close again when he powered onto Youssouf Mulumbu’s cross-field pass before drilling the ball at Gleeson from the edge of the area.
The Republic gradually grew into the game and passed up a great chance to level on 32. Tommy Thompson fired high and wide from the edge of the six-yard box after the Baggies failed to deal with a hanging Octavio Guzman cross.
Albion were soon back on the attack and Gardner timed his run to perfection to chest down Dorrans’ forward pass before volleying wide from 12 yards.
However, the Baggies had several scares before half-time. Myhill had to take evasive action by saving Alvarez’s swirling 20-yarder with his foot after appearing to be deceived by the flight of the ball.
The Sacramento right-winger tried his luck from distance again in the final minute and fired inches wide of Myhill’s left-hand post.
Seconds later, Albion’s left flank was woefully exposed and Klimenta ghosted into the space before shooting wide from the edge of the area.
Irvine stuck with the same team after the break and they started with real purpose.
The Baggies almost doubled their lead on 49 when Saido Berahino was teed up in the box by Anichebe, only for the England Under-21 international to have his goalbound effort blocked by the onrushing Dominik Jakubek, who had replaced Gleeson between the sticks at half-time.
But another golden chance fell to Sacramento on 63 when Adam Jahn fluffed his shot from eight yards from Klimenta’s pull-back.
Three minutes later, Albion gave the ball away just inside their own half and Rodrigo Lopez put Republic sub Thomas Stewart through, with the ex-Wolves youth player seeing his left-footed effort superbly tipped away by Myhill.
Lopez was the next to try his luck on 75 – but fired straight at Myhill from 20 yards.
Stewart was put in the clear again two minutes later but once again failed to beat Myhill, who parried his shot low to his left.
Albion were reduced to ten men with eight minutes to go when Gardner was shown a second yellow card for a foul on Gilberto, but they comfortably saw out the remainder of the game.
SACRAMENTO (4-4-2): Gleeson (Jakubek HT); Klimenta, Daly, Vukovic, Avesyan; Guzman (Stewart 58), Mirkovic (Collins 81), Lopez, Alvarez; Thompson (Gilberto 58), Jahn (Martinez 69). Subs not used: Gibert, Evans.
ALBION (4-4-2): Myhill; O'Neil, Baird, Olsson (D Daniels 81), Pocognoli; Gardner, Mulumbu, Yacob, Dorrans; Berahino, Anichebe (Roofe 77). Subs not used: L Daniels, Atkinson, A Nabi, Garmston.
GOAL: ALBION – Dorrans (13 pen).
BOOKINGS: SACRAMENTO – Vukovic (dissent 13), Mirkovic (foul 77). ALBION – Mulumbu (deliberate handball 36), Gardner (foul 42).
SENDING-OFF: ALBION – Gardner (second bookable offence 82).
REFEREE: Matthew Buckman.