Forward Justin Braun and defender Nemanja Vukovic, two cornerstones for Republic FC, have been sent to the North American Soccer League Indy Eleven for an undisclosed amount of cash.
Braun and Vukovic join three other key players from Republic FC’s inaugural 2014 USL championship season who have left the team this offseason.
Both Nemanja and Justin have been pivotal in the club’s success, but the time was right for them to move on to other opportunities.
Republic FC director of football Graham Smith
Defender Mickey Daly and forward Gabe Gissie signed with Bethlehem Steel FC, the new USL team of the Philadelphia Union of Major League Soccer, and midfielder Rodrigo Lopez joined Celaya FC, a second-division Mexican team.
And goalkeeper Patrick McLain, who played with Sacramento in 2015, signed with the MLS Chicago Fire on Monday.
“It’s normal every couple of years to get a transition period,” Republic FC coach Paul Buckle said. “It’s also a sign that we are doing things right.”
Braun, 28, who played six seasons in MLS before coming to Sacramento, had 12 goals in 43 USL matches for Republic FC. Vukovic, 31, appeared in 52 USL matches and anchored Sacramento’s central defense.
“Both Nemanja and Justin have been pivotal in the club’s success, but the time was right for them to move on to other opportunities,” Republic FC director of football Graham Smith said in a statement. “They have been with us since Day One and played a major role in the club; both gave us 100 percent and nothing less in their dedication and effort to the club.”
Smith said the transactions will give the team flexibility to sign players he and Buckle believe will keep Republic FC among the top teams in the USL.
Indy Eleven is a third-year NASL team with a new coach, Tim Hankinson, a 36-year coaching veteran with MLS experience.
The Indianapolis-based team placed ninth in 2014 and eighth in 2015 in the 11-team NASL, but it averaged nearly 10,000 fans last season to lead the league in attendance.
Braun and Vukovic said their time in Sacramento was special.
“I want to thank everyone for an amazing two years,” Braun posted on Twitter. “It’s been some of the best times of my career.”
Said Vukovic: “I also want to say a big thanks to all the people at Sacramento Republic FC and the club’s fans – especially the Tower Bridge Battalion – for their amazing support during a fantastic two years that I will never forget.”
Buckle and Smith have identified several players during offseason scouting trips in California, Mexico and England they think can be key contributors for Republic FC.
It’s normal every couple of years to get a transition period. It’s also a sign that we are doing things right.
Republic FC coach Paul Buckle
“We are trying to get one or two players over the (contract) line, and there are other ones I’d like to take another look at,” Buckle said. “Certainly preseason gives you an opportunity to do that. But we are not going to rush in and sign players. They’ve got to be right for us.”
Republic FC, which begins training Feb. 1 and plays its first preseason friendly Feb. 13, has 16 players under contract.