When Republic FC returns to Sacramento after playing at Saint Louis FC on Saturday night, it will end a stretch of six road games – including five in a row – in seven matches.
Republic FC will have accumulated nearly 16,000 frequent-flier miles during the six road games.
“I don’t think I have traveled that far in my 20 years as a player in the UK, to be honest,” Republic FC coach Paul Buckle said. “The five in a row was very difficult. I don’t think it was right. I don’t think it was fair on the players. Certainly, next year we will look at (scheduling) a bit better.”
The schedule was partly of Republic FC’s making. The club decided not to schedule home matches during the 17-day California State Fair in July. Republic FC officials wanted to avoid their fans and staff having to deal with the parking, noise and crowd issues during the annual event at Cal Expo.
But Republic FC spokesperson Erika Bjork said the club plans to have at least one USL home match during the State Fair next summer to avoid so many successive road games.
Republic FC captain Danny Barrera said that while the road games were a true test of endurance, the players handled the stretch well, and he doesn’t anticipate there will be any problems with the trip to St. Louis.
“Obviously, there were tired legs and long days,” Barrera said. “But as far as our team mentality, the guys were great. No one complained about it. The staff really prepared us well, as far as our level of fitness and recovery, to minimize the fatigue.”
The toughest stop might have been their July 30 match against Rio Grande Valley Toros FC in Edinburg, Texas, near the Mexican border.
“We left at 10 in the morning the day before the game and we got in at 2 a.m. the morning of the game,” Barrera said. “There were flight delays, the bus wasn’t there, the bus broke down. Everything that could go wrong happened on that trip.”
Republic FC managed to play Rio Grande Valley to a 0-0 tie, then three days later beat the surging OKC Energy FC 1-0, Sacramento’s first win in Oklahoma City after six consecutive losses.
Going forward – Republic FC has signed 22-year old English forward Wilson Kneeshaw, a former Middlesbrough FC Academy player who scored five goals in a game this season with the Blyth Spartans of the Northern Premier League against Ramsbottom United on Feb. 13.
Kneeshaw played two seasons with the Middlesbrough FC U-23s and then a little more than a year with the first-division ACS Poli Timisoara in Romania before returning to England, where he played with Darlington FC and Blyth.
Buckle continues to look toward England for attacking players. Kneeshaw joins former English Premier League veteran forward Carlton Cole, whose signing was announced earlier in the week, along with 20-year-olds Harry Williams, a forward, and Daniel Trickett-Smith, an attacking midfielder.
Republic FC also signed forward Christian Chaney of the Fresno Fuego, a Premier Development League team. The 6-foot-2 Chaney, considered the PDL’s top prospect, scored 14 goals this season, including four in a May match against the Las Vegas Mobsters. Chaney’s Fresno teammate, Elliott Hord, a defender from UC Davis, also is expected to sign with Sacramento.
Expanded schedule – Republic FC will see its USL regular season expand to 32 games instead of 27 next season but also will lose one match with the rival LA Galaxy II.
The 32-game schedule, which will begin the weekend of March 24-26, will allow each team to play a conference opponent at least twice, one home and one away. But teams will play an opponent no more than three times in a season.
So instead of four regular-season matches against Galaxy II, Republic FC will play L.A. three times in 2017.
Academy honors – Republic FC’s Ben Ziemer was named the United States Soccer Development Academy Western Conference 17/18s Coach of the Year, and goalkeeper Cameron Douglas and defender Nibilai Kibunguchy made the 11-man first team. The Republic FC 17/18s finished second in the Western Conference regular-season standings and reached the U.S. Soccer Development Academy quarterfinals in its inaugural campaign.
Douglas and Republic FC U15/16s forward Shaft Brewer Jr. have been called up to the U.S. Men’s National U-18 Team for a tournament in the Czech Republic through Aug. 21. The U.S. team will play Slovakia, Hungary and Russia in group play.