Unlike Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz, Republic FC coach Paul Buckle has no problems with “New York values.”
Earlier this week, the team signed free agent defender Chris Christian, a New York City native who played at Villanova. He joins fellow New Yorker Mike da Fonte, signed by Republic FC last December, as the team’s new central defenders.
Christian played last season with the North American Soccer League’s Atlanta Silverbacks before being loaned to the Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC, a USL Western Conference rival of Republic FC. He played in four matches and scored one goal for Atlanta, then played in five matches for Colorado Springs, including two against Republic FC that impressed Buckle.
“He played a major role in the matches and was very dominant in the 18-yard box,” Buckle said. “The minute he became available, we were very interested in bringing him to the club. He is a good defender, a good leader.”
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Buckle said Christian, who has played professionally in Poland and Ghana, offers versatility as a left-footer who also can play holding midfielder.
Da Fonte, who played last season for the New York Red Bulls II, and Christian, both 24, will battle returning interior defender Derek Foran, 26, to replace departed stars Nemanja Vukovic and Mickey Daly on the back line.
Republic FC sent Vukovic, 31, and forward Justin Braun to the NASL Indy Eleven for cash. Daly, 28, signed as a free agent with the Philadephia Union’s new USL affiliate, Bethlehem Steel FC. Vukovic was the USL Defender of the Year in 2014, and Daly was All-USL second team last season.
Academy teams rolling – Republic FC’s 17/18 and 15/16 Academy teams are playing well in their inaugural seasons in the United States Soccer Federation Development Academy.
The 17/18 boys (8-3-5, 29 points) are second and the 15/16 boys (7-7-2, 23 points) fifth while playing against several Major League Soccer-affiliated Academy teams in their nine-team Northwest divisions.
The two groups created a buzz by both finishing 2-0-1 at a major college showcase in December.
“We’ve had some success,” Republic FC Academy Director Rod Underwood said. “Players have been seen, they’ve played well and they have improved.”
Said 17/18 player David Burns, a member of the U.S. National Team U-20 pool: “It’s been pretty impressive what our team has done considering the short time we’ve been together. The coaching and training has been great. It’s been a good experience, and we’ve learned a lot.”
Republic FC will face a big challenge Tuesday when the 15/16s and 17/18s play the Vancouver Whitecaps FC in a doubleheader at 5 p.m. at Cosumnes River College. Vancouver, which has a residency program, is considered one of the strongest academies in the United States and Canada.
Coaching clinic – Underwood and Chris Malenab, Republic FC’s video analyst and camps and clinics coordinator, will hold a coaches clinic as part of Tuesday’s doubleheader. Youth, club and high school coaches will get some hands-on learning experience before, during and after the Republic FC 17/18s game against the Whitecaps.
“We’ll talk about game preparation and what we do at halftime as we walk them through the process,” Underwood said. “Then after the game we’ll talk to coaches a little bit and explain what we saw during the game.”
Underwood said that while the emphasis on player development in the United States is huge, it’s also important for coaches to continue to improve and advance.
“Coaches at all levels can always learn more,” Underwood said.