Republic FC forward Justin Braun said he and his teammates are looking forward to playing at Bonney Field for the first time Friday night when they host the Colorado Rapids Reserves at the sold-out 8,000-seat stadium at Cal Expo.
“It’s a good change,” Braun said. “We can’t wait to get out there.”
The first-year expansion team played its first four home matches at Hughes Stadium and shattered USL Pro attendance records. Republic FC had three announced sellouts of 20,231 and a fourth that drew an announced 17,414. But the Hughes Stadium field – with synthetic turf, narrow width and football lines – wasn’t optimal for the team’s style of play.
Bonney Field has grass and is larger, at 120 yards by 80 yards, than most Major League Soccer fields.
“It’s going to allow us to play our game more,” Braun said. “It’s going to allow us to tire out teams, whereas Hughes was a little more compact, so teams were able to sit in against us. Now we’ll be able to spread them out. It’s going to be an advantage for us.”
Braun’s first close look at the field will come Friday night , though he has seen pictures. Thursday’s scheduled practice was canceled because work on the locker rooms wasn’t complete.
“The way they built it, it’s going to be a good environment for the fans,” Braun said.
Forward Chad Bartlome understands why there has been so much debate on social media about the switch in stadiums.
“In one way, it’s a shame because we could be getting 20,000,” Bartlome said. “But this stadium is going to be ours and, with 8,000, it’s going to be a bit more personal. Next year, they can add 4,000. I think 12,000 is a good number for USL Pro.”
But as of Thursday, the only San Jose player officially on loan was forward Adam Jahn.
MLS teams are on a three-week break from league play because of the World Cup. San Jose beat Republic FC 2-1 in the U.S. Open Cup on June 11 in San Francisco, after which Earthquakes players praised their opponents for their style of play.
But Republic FC coach Preki wouldn’t credit that performance for the sudden influx of San Jose players.
“I don’t know if they were impressed, or San Jose felt (the players) needed a change of environment a little bit, to come here, work and see if we can use some of them,” Preki said.
The Los Angeles Galaxy started Galaxy II and affiliated with USL Pro to remedy that. Other MLS teams, like the Portland Timbers, decided to drop their reserve team and place players with lower-division teams such as Republic FC to give them more match experience.
The Colorado Rapids Reserves are one of eight teams in the MLS reserve league this season. So this will be the team’s first match since losing 2-0 to the Real Salt Lake Reserves on May 18.
The Rapids Reserves (2-1-1) are a combination of trialists, academy players and those from the MLS team. Rapids player Gabriel Torres leads the Rapids Reserves in goals with two in just 113 minutes.
While the match is meaningless to the Reserves as far as the standings, it counts as a USL Pro match for Republic FC (6-4-2).
“It’s going to be difficult,” Preki said. “Those guys have a lot to show to their coaching staff – that they deserve to be on the field.
“A lot of times, it’s harder to play against the second group rather than the first group. Quite a few guys on that squad have a lot of Major League Soccer experience.”