Republic FC exercised its contract extension options to retain the core of its USL Pro championship team for the 2015 season.
Set to return to Sacramento are goalkeeper Dominik Jakubek; defenders James Kiffe, Emrah Klimenta and Nemanja Vukovic; midfielders Max Alvarez, Octavio Guzman and Agustin Cazarez; and forwards Mawolo “Gabe” Gisse and Thomas Stewart.
Also scheduled to come back is star midfielder Rodrigo Lopez, who will enter the last year of his two-year contract with the club.
Vukovic was the USL Pro Defensive Player of the Year and joined Lopez on the All-USL Pro Team.
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Republic FC technical director Graham Smith also made offers to midfielder Ivan Mirkovic, defender Mickey Daly and forward Justin Braun, the former Major League Soccer veteran. All were starters and key contributors.
“We have offered Daly and Braun new deals and are waiting for their response,” Smith said. “We’ve offered terms to Ivan Mirkovic and he has verbally agreed, but we’re now waiting for pen to paper.”
Smith said that talented Brazilian Gilberto dos Santos Souza Jr. also has been extended an offer, but he might sign with the Seattle Sounders.
Among the players Republic FC decided not to retain are forwards Chad Bartlome, Dakota Collins and Izzy Tandir, defenders Christian Gonzalez, Harrison Delbridge and Jack Avesyan and midfielder Carlos Martinez. All were reserves.
“We felt it was in the interest of those players to give them the opportunity to go to another club in USL Pro or outside the United States where they might be able to play on a regular basis,” Smith said. “They’re good lads.”
Smith has extended a half-dozen offers to players to participate in a four- or five-day “assessment” camp in late January that Smith expects eventually will involve 15 or so players to help fill out the remaining spots on a 20-man roster. The team also will hold tryout camps in November, December and January at Cosumnes River College.
Smith expects six additional roster spots will be filled by MLS loanees.
Last year, Republic FC had an agreement with the Portland Timbers and the San Jose Earthquakes. Eleven Timbers and Quakes players were with the team at one time or another, though Portland goalkeeper Jake Gleeson was the only one to spend the entire season with Sacramento. Republic FC will no longer have an affiliation with the Timbers. Portland is putting its own development team, T-2, into USL Pro next season.
While Smith said the core of the team will be back, it doesn’t rule out a player such as the popular Lopez moving to a higher-level team.
“If another team expresses an interest in one of our players, we’ll listen,” Smith said. “But it has to make sense for all concerned.”
While Republic FC’s bid to become an MLS team isn’t likely to be decided until December or beyond, Smith expects Sacramento will be in USL Pro for at least one more year.
Even with some “new blood,” Smith thinks it will be a challenge to repeat as USL Pro champion. At least four and possibly six MLS teams are expected to join the Los Angeles Galaxy in placing development teams into USL Pro for 2015.
“It’s going to be great for the fans because they are going to see MLS players turning out at Bonney Field, but it’s going to be tough for us,” Smith said. “We’re not going to breeze through the league like some might think because the competition is going to be better.”
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