One reason that Republic FC won the USL championship in its inaugural season in 2014 was its fruitful affiliation with two Major League Soccer teams.
The Portland Timbers and San Jose Earthquakes loaned players to Sacramento throughout the season, and they had big impacts. Timbers goalkeeper Jake Gleeson was with the team from start to finish, except for a handful of brief detours to Portland. Quakes forward Adam Jahn spent several months in Sacramento and was Republic FC’s third-leading scorer with seven goals.
But last year, Portland formed its own USL team, and Dominic Kinnear became the Earthquakes’ coach. He had a lukewarm relationship with then-Sacramento coach Preki.
It wasn’t until after Paul Buckle was hired as coach and Republic FC was battling for its playoff life late in the season that Kinnear finally offered some help. He sent midfielders Tommy Thompson and JJ Koval and forward Mark Sherrod north, and the trio had big roles in Sacramento’s 3-1 win over Tulsa Roughnecks FC, helping Sacramento reach the postseason for the second consecutive year.
Buckle thinks the relationship will be more productive for both this coming season.
“Our affiliation with San Jose is going to be different,” Buckle said. “I’ve spoken with Dominic a number of times. We have a brilliant relationship, and it’s a relationship I think we will have throughout next season.”
Goodbye Gilberto – One of Republic FC’s most entertaining and creative players will not return after Buckle declined to pick up the contract option on midfielder Gilberto.
The Brazilian spent most of last season sidelined by a knee injury.
Buckle said he wanted to see if Gilberto was back in form before making a commitment but that the player’s agent balked.
“I didn’t want to take on someone I didn’t see play and I wasn’t sure would be 100 percent fit,” Buckle said. “I knew of what he had done in the past, but I wanted to see what he could do for us in 2016. Could he play a full season?
“We spoke with his agent, and he wasn’t willing do that, so I wasn’t willing to take the risk. It was a deal breaker. But Gilberto is a wonderful, wonderful person. I’m disappointed I didn’t get a chance to work with him.”
Gilberto spent the first part of the 2015 season on loan to a team in Brazil. He played in nine matches and made six starts for Republic FC before being injured. He played in 22 matches during Sacramento’s 2014 USL championship run.
I didn’t want to take on someone I didn’t see play and I wasn’t sure would be 100 percent fit. I knew of what he had done in the past, but I wanted to see what he could do for us in 2016. Could he play a full season?
Buckle on declining to pick up the contract option on midfielder Gilberto
He had no goals and one assist in his two seasons in Sacramento but created scoring chances for teammates with his skill and speed.
Help from academy? – Republic FC is only four months into its three-team youth Academy program, but Buckle said a handful of players from the U-18 squad could find a spot on the bench or even on the field when Sacramento hosts the MLS Colorado Rapids on Feb. 13 and the Earthquakes on Feb. 20 in friendlies at Bonney Field.
“These 18s need men’s football now,” Buckle said. “Those players who show promise have to be thrown in with the pros so they can grasp just how far away they are from reaching that level.”
He also expects that some might be in better shape than Sacramento’s veterans because they will train and play matches throughout January. Republic FC doesn’t start training camp until Feb. 1.
Roster at 17 – With the re-signing of outside back James Kiffe on Friday, Republic FC has 17 players under contract for the 2016 season. Goalkeeper Evan Newton is the lone newcomer. But Republic FC is expected to announce at least one new free-agent signing this coming week.
Roster at glance
A look at Republic FC players under contract for the 2016 USL season:
Goalkeepers: Dominik Jakubek, Evan Newton.
Defenders: Derek Foran, James Kiffe, Emrah Klimenta, Nemanja Vukovic.
Midfielders: Max Alvarez, Danny Barrera, Agustin Cazarez, Octavio Guzman, Ivan Mirkovic, Alfonso Motagalvan, Joaquin Rivas.
Forwards: Justin Braun, Adnan Gabeljic, Cameron Iwasa, Tommy Stewart.