New Republic FC coach Paul Buckle is coming aboard during possibly the low point of the team’s nearly two-year existence.
Within five days, Republic FC lost its coach and suffered the two worst losses in franchise history, both at Bonney Field.
Preki told his players last Tuesday he was leaving to accept a coaching job in the United Kingdom with a team yet to be publicly revealed. On Wednesday night, Sacramento lost 4-1 to Liga MX side Atlas FC in a friendly, albeit largely with reserves.
But then came Saturday’s shocker. In Preki’s finale, Republic FC was routed 4-0 by the rival LA Galaxy II in a critical USL match.
After just two training sessions, Buckle gets tossed into the fire Tuesday night, when Republic FC hosts Sunderland AFC in the first of two friendlies against English Premier League teams. Republic FC hosts Newcastle United FC on Saturday.
1879 Year Sunderland AFC was founded
Buckle, who attended both losses, and his players see this week’s friendlies as a chance to put last week behind them and regain some confidence before resuming USL play Aug. 1.
“Who wouldn’t get up for a game against an EPL team? It’s a great opportunity,” defender Mickey Daly said. “It’s the highest level you are going to get, and not many soccer players around the world get the chance to say they played against an EPL team.”
Daly noted that last July, Republic FC went toe-to-toe with West Bromwich Albion FC in the first of two friendlies against the EPL team at Bonney Field. Sacramento lost the first meeting 1-0 on Graham Dorrans’ penalty kick. The Republic then lost 3-1.
“You never know,” Daly said. “We played pretty well in the match. The EPL has some of the best players in the world, so we want to show that we have some talent as well.”
The 44-year-old Buckle is English and played and coached against several EPL teams during his long career in England.
He had “an unbelievable experience” two years ago when he led Luton Town to a fifth-round FA Cup upset of EPL club Norwich City. It was the first time in 24 years that a nonleague (the level below England’s top four divisions) team achieved that feat and the first time in FA Cup history a nonleague club beat a first-division team on the road.
Sunderland appears on the upswing after 67-year-old Dick Advocaat came in as coach for the final nine games last season and saved the team from relegation.
The former Dutch national team coach stepped down at the end of the season but changed his mind and is back for at least one more season.
Sunderland, founded in 1879, is training this week in San Francisco. The Black Cats also play Liga MX side CF Pachuca on Friday at Bonney Field before visiting Toronto FC on July 22. They are led by English National Team striker Jermain Defoe and Republic of Ireland defender John O’Shea, a former Manchester United star.
Buckle calls Sunderland “a big test for us.”
“It’s the first chance to walk out with my team, which is great,” Buckle said. “Obviously the last two games have been a disappointment … . So it’s the case of lifting the players now again as we go against a Premiership side.”
Daly agreed that Republic FC might have been pressing Saturday to send Preki out a winner. He added the players had a good training session with their new coach Monday.
“I think overall (Buckle) brings a lot to the table,” Daly said. “He’s made some little changes but nothing too drastic, which is good. The other night was just a bad night for us. I think we should come out Tuesday and perform just like we usually do.”