For those Republic FC soccer fans caught in the USL Pro team’s downsizing from Hughes Stadium to Bonney Field, there is some solace.
While many can no longer get tickets, there’s still a way to see the team play in its new 8,000-seat stadium, either in a group setting or the comfort of their own living rooms.
Republic FC is webstreaming all its home games, and those who have viewed the first six, including Thursday night’s 1-0 win against Arizona United SC, agree that the performances from the booth are every bit as professional and interesting as the Preki-coached team.
The play-by-play combo of Rob McAllister and Kevin Goldthwaite sound as if they have worked together for years.
Instead, the two met face to face for the first time the day before Republic FC’s home opener April 26 at sold-out Hughes Stadium.
“We were both pretty nervous about it,” said McAllister, who does play-by-play. “I didn’t know much about soccer, and Kevin had never done a broadcast before.”
Said Goldthwaite, the color commentator: “I was a bit anxious at first.”
Both decided to play to their strengths.
McAllister is a longtime broadcaster who works as an on-camera reporter for CBS Sacramento. A former radio newsman, he’s also broadcast River Cats (pinch hitting for Johnny Doskow) games and a plethora of high school football games.
Goldthwaite, a Christian Brothers and Notre Dame graduate who works in commercial real estate for Colliers International, played for five teams over seven years in Major League Soccer before injuries cut short his career.
Neither expected to jell so quickly. McAllister’s distinctive, measured voice describes the action. Goldthwaite offers impeccable insights.
“We really clicked from the first moment,” McAllister said. “We push each other to be the best we can at this.”
Erika Bjork, the team’s vice president of marketing and communications, gets credit for bringing the pair together.
She was aware of McAllister’s work in radio and television. She saw how smoothly Goldthwaite interacted with the public and the media in helping to promote pro soccer and the new franchise before it even had players or a coach.
“It’s not that uncommon for teams to use former players or coaches for their color analyst,” Bjork said. “So it made sense in a multitude of ways. Considering he doesn’t have formal broadcasting experience, he has done a tremendous job.
“With Rob, we needed someone who knew enough of the game but could also be a teacher to Kevin on the broadcast side. Rob is a very good fit for that because he has a multitude of experience.”
Unlike many team-supported broadcasts where nary a negative word is heard about the home team, McAllister and Goldthwaite aren’t afraid to point out Republic FC’s poor play.
When the Colorado Rapids Reserves’ Danny Mwanga sprinted through the Republic FC defense to score and give his team a 1-0 lead 15 minutes into last Friday’s offensively explosive Bonney Field home opener, Goldthwaite was quick to point out the team’s defensive flaws in the 4-3 win.
“Republic needed to step up,” he said. “Mwanga basically walked into the 18-yard box and slotted with his left foot. Preki is standing up and does not look too happy or pleased, and I don’t blame him. That was poor defending throughout.”
But with an exciting, talented and technically interesting team like Republic FC, there is plenty to praise, too, including Mike Fucito’s dramatic winning goal in the 84th minute to beat Colorado.
“Fucito wins it,” McAllister says, his voice rising. “Fucito has a little chip shot, and he gets it in! Mike Fucito!!! Right there, perfect timing, (Justin) Braun was in the neighborhood, and Fucito and the Republic fans are pumped up.”
Added Goldthwaite: “Unbelievable. I tell you there was zero margin for error on that by Fucito. ... That’s grit and determination finished off with a little finesse and cheekiness.”
Both agree that what started as a lark could lead to something bigger as they continue to hone their skills with a franchise that hopes to one day reach Major League Soccer.
“Major professional sports broadcast jobs open up so infrequently,” McAllister said. “Right now, it’s so much fun. I look forward to every match day and working with someone like Kevin who is so passionate about the sport and really knows his stuff.”