When the Republic FC foursome of Dominik Jakubek, Jake Gleeson, Simon Sheppard and Gene DuChateau take a break, a comic roast breaks out.
While they work hard on the pitch – one reason Republic FC is playing in the USL Pro playoffs tonight at Bonney Field – they can’t help but poke fun at each other off it.
The foil for most of the barbs is DuChateau, the 60-year-old Queens native who, along with the 41-year-old Sheppard, helps train Gleeson and Jakubek, Republic FC’s talented goalkeeper duo.
DuChateau’s age, shoot-from-the-hip quips and colorful career as an Afro-coiffed goalkeeper in the defunct North American Soccer League makes him the an inviting target for Sheppard, a former English Under-20 National Team goalie, Jakubek, the oldest player on the Republic FC team at 34, and the 24-year-old Gleeson, the New Zealander and Major League Soccer player on loan to Sacramento from the Portland Timbers.
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But DuChateau can give as good as he takes.
“It’s something special when you have one English and one American trainer,” said DuChateau, who played five seasons with four NASL teams in the1970s. “I don’t want to get slammed in the paper, so be careful how you use it, but it used to be called the Non-American Soccer League. Teams only had to have one American.
“So typically most teams were mainly English. Some were great and then some I didn’t like because they were trying to take my job away. But now I share my job with Simon, so I’ve come full circle.”
Sheppard is quick to respond: “Tell him what you really said. That you didn’t like the English until you met me.”
Jakubek and Gleeson aren’t above piling on, either.
When DuChateau talks about all the failed pro soccer franchises that have come through Sacramento before the highly popular Republic FC, Jakubek deadpans, “Gene has been here so long I think he founded Sacramento.”
DuChateau mentions he wants to show the guys a VHS tape from his playing days, so Gleeson responds, “Gene, we don’t have VHS anymore. I last had VHS when I was 5.”
The side-splitting relationship has just added spice to what’s been a special season for all four.
Sheppard, who owns a goalkeeping and team training business, and DuChateau, a sales executive, help train Jakubek and Gleeson during Republic FC practices and matches.
Gleeson and Jakubek are two reasons that the first-year expansion team finished in second place in USL Pro and is seeded No. 2 entering tonight’s match against the visiting Wilmington Hammerheads FC.
The two allowed 28 goals in 27 USL Pro matches, third lowest in the league. Gleeson, who overcame groin and head injuries that cost him playing time earlier in the season, has been particularly strong lately in allowing only three goals in the past eight appearances.
Despite the kidding, Sheppard and DuChateau agree having two trainers is ideal because of their job situations.
“You have to be able to work together and from Day One. We thought we could,” DuChateau said. “It’s been a great relationship.”
Added Sheppard: “I think the beauty of it is we see eye to eye on most things. When we don’t, we agree to disagree, and that’s OK because we have a healthy relationship.”
DuChateau hooked up early with the team through meetings with Republic FC president Warren Smith and technical director Graham Smith. Sheppard came aboard in February when a friend who plays basketball with Republic FC coach Preki mentioned that Sheppard was interested in helping out.
Gleeson, in his fourth season with the Timbers, says he’s thankful for the time DuChateau and Sheppard have spent working with him. He says playing on loan with Republic FC has helped him hone his skills better than in previous years when he played in the MLS reserve league.
“The games are few and far between, there is not a lot of emphasis in terms of competitiveness, and a lot of guys don’t want to be playing there because they want to be playing for the first team,” Gleeson said. “This definitely has been a great option. I wish I would have done it a year earlier.”
Jakubek wasn’t expected to play much as Gleeson’s backup. Instead he has played in more matches and more minutes than Gleeson. Jakubek’s play has made DuChateau proud. He worked with the former Lodi High, Sonoma State and Chico State goalkeeper when both were members of the Stockton-based indoor California Cougars.
“In all seriousness, from where he was in 2006 to where he is today, he has made tremendous strides,” DuChateau said.
Sometimes rivals for the same position don’t get along, but Gleeson said Jakubek, renowned for his on-field intensity and off-field work ethic that includes Pilates, yoga and weight training, have an excellent relationship.
“We’re quite different personalities,” Gleeson said. “I think I’ve worn off a little on him and he has worn off on me. He’s a little crazy, but in the best kind of way. I’m really calm and easygoing, sometimes to a fault. It’s been a good partnership.”