Republic FC coach Paul Buckle insisted before the USL season he needed two forwards who could produce double-figure goal scoring if the team expected to challenge for a league title.
But with one-third of the league season in the books, that scenario looks unlikely – unless someone catches fire with his feet.
In league play, Republic FC’s leading goal scorers are forward Cameron Iwasa and San Jose Earthquakes loan player Tommy Thompson, a midfielder. Both have two goals. Iwasa is the team leader with three goals when Republic FC’s four friendlies and two U.S. Open Cup matches are factored in.
It’s a Catch-22. If you rest him, he loses his sharpness in training. But if you train him too hard, then he’s probably not right for the game. We’re trying to find that balance ... . I think it’s important that our center halves have a defensive player in there, so I can’t wait to get JJ back into the team. But it’s got to be right.
Republic FC coach Paul Buckle, on injured midfielder JJ Koval
Republic FC has scored by committee. Thirteen players have scored Sacramento’s 20 goals in 16 overall games. Seven players have combined for Republic FC’s nine goals in 10 USL matches.
That’s a a big difference from the previous two seasons. In 2014, former Sacramento star Rodrigo Lopez had 14 goals and Thomas Stewart 13 overall and the duo combined for 25 goals in USL regular-season and postseason play. Last year Lopez, Stewart and since departed forward Justin Braun combined for 28 goals, 21 in league play.
Buckle still believes at least one player, if not two, will develop into an impact scorer this season. He thinks Iwasa, who has scored goals in the last two matches, is ready to break through. Harry Williams and attacking midfielder Daniel Trickett-Smith, Buckle’s two mega-talented English 20-year-olds, have just scratched the surface. Each has two goals on the season, with Trickett-Smith having joined the team 20 days ago.
Buckle is counting on Stewart and San Jose loan player Adam Jahn to get on track. Stewart has scored just twice, once in league play. While the 6-foot-3 Jahn has looked dangerous at times up top, he has yet to score this season in five appearances and 207 minutes with Sacramento. Reserve forward Mackenzie Pridham has two non-USL goals.
“I think if you can get the both, you have a real chance, and that’s what we’re working toward,” Buckle said of having impact scorers as well as a diversified offense. “It’s strange with strikers. Sometimes they are on brilliant runs and sometimes not so brilliant. But the one thing you have to say about our strikers is that they keep putting themselves in there. … As many (shots) as we’ve missed, you can have that sequence where you suddenly find the back of the net, and you are up to six or seven goals.”
Buckle has been buoyed by the team’s eight-match scoring streak, including four consecutive in USL play, entering Wednesday’s 8 p.m. match against the Real Monarchs SLC at Bonney Field. The run comes after a four-game scoreless stretch in USL play.
Koval’s status – Republic FC has allowed three goals in its past two USL matches after surrendering three in the previous eight.
Buckle acknowledged Sacramento has missed the defensive presence of midfielder JJ Koval, who has sat out the last two league matches because of a sports hernia. His playing status remains uncertain.
“It’s a Catch-22,” Buckle said. “If you rest him, he loses his sharpness in training. But if you train him too hard, then he’s probably not right for the game. We’re trying to find that balance. ... I think it’s important that our center halves have a defensive player in there, so I can’t wait to get JJ back into the team. But it’s got to be right.”
9 Republic FC’s goal total in 10 USL matches
Doubleheader scheduled – The California Storm and Sacramento rival Primero de Mayo will play a Women’s Premier Soccer League match as part of a doubleheader June 18 at Bonney Field.
Former U.S. women’s national team player Brandi Chastain and former Brazil women’s national team player Sissi will play for the Elk Grove-based Storm, one of the nation’s top women’s amateur teams. Game time is 4 p.m.
Following the game, both players will participate in a question-and-answer session with fans from 6:30 to 7 p.m. At 8 p.m., Republic FC will play the Rio Grande Valley FC Toros of Edinburg, Texas, in a USL match.
Live streaming – As part of the USL’s new partnership with ESPN, Wednesday’s match will be streamed live on ESPN3 as its USL Game of the Week. Michael Watts and Juan Arango will call the game. It is one of 20 matches ESPN3 is live streaming this season. The USL championship match will be broadcast on ESPN.