The San Jose Earthquakes' form has improved significantly since interim manager Alex Covelo took the reins. But that turnaround won't lead to a deeper US Open Cup run after a depleted and rotated squad was deservedly beaten 2-0 away to Sacramento Republic FC of the USL Championship in Wednesday's night Round of 16 clash at Heart Health Park.

And while Covelo acknowledged the reality a short-handed squad following the defeat, it didn’t remove the sting from the first cup defeat to their lower division Northern California rivals in four meetings.

Covelo pointed mainly to his decision to rest regulars who contributed off the bench, including striker Jeremy Ebobisse, and midfielders Chofis Lopez and Cristian Espinoza.

On Thursday, a team spokesperson told that other regulars were also unavailable, including Jackson Yueill (minor injury), Nathan (health and safety protocols), Jamiro Monteiro (undisclosed) and Francisco Calvo (international duty).

“First of all, after (the) amount of games that we’ve had these last (few) days, we thought that it would be good to rotate some players,” Covelo said. “But I’m very disappointed because I think we started slow, and we were not able to overcome the opponent in different areas, even when we had some opportunities before they scored their first goal on a set-piece.

“At the end, we had the urgency in the last 20 to 35 minutes where we made some adjustments, but that urgency and desire had to have happened earlier.”

Former Quakes midfielder Luis Felipe headed home one-time Chivas USA midfielder Rodrigo Lopez’s corner kick in the 28th minute to give Republic the advantage; his effort contained just enough power to creep over the line despite a deflection from diving goalkeeper Matt Bersano.

From there, the visitors led in shots overall and efforts on target, but the hosts generated the more truly dangerous chances.

And they were rewarded for their endeavor in the 83rd minute when Lopez’s thunderbolt from distance sailed into the top left corner. Again Bersano got a hand to it, but not firmly enough to send it wide of the post.

That sank San Jose to 4W-2L-3D in all competitions since Covelo took over from Matias Almeyda in April. And in Covelo's mind, it should provide a reminder of the kind of effort needed to continue their 3W-1L-2D league run since the change, beginning with a tricky Week 14 visit to LAFC on Saturday (6 pm ET | UniMas, TUDN, Twitter).

“We need to take this game as a lesson, understanding that all the games are important, and we have to be at 200 percent focus and ready to attack and defend better,” Covelo said. “I think that right now, we need to recover the guys and prepare Saturday’s game as best as possible, understanding the days that we have ahead, put the best lineup on the field and try to get a good result in LA before the international break.”