High School Sports

Soccer notes: Roseville coach has seen much change in 41 years

Pablo Gutierrez says there is plenty left in the tank.

Gutierrez, 66, started the boys soccer program at Roseville High School 41 years ago and is the area’s longest-tenured coach. He has seen plenty of changes in the sport and school.

He’s had championship teams and rebuilding seasons, teams loaded with talent and others filled with overachievers. He has watched as new high schools sprouted up nearby, diluting the pool of talent.

“You have cycles,” Gutierrez said. “But we have always been able to be competitive.”

Gutierrez directed Sac-Joaquin Section Division II championship teams in 1996 and 2004. This year’s team has the potential to win the program’s third title.

The Tigers are 6-0-2 and have yet to allow a goal. They beat defending Capital Valley Conference and Sac-Joaquin Section Division II champion Cosumnes Oaks 1-0 on Monday night. Attacking midfielder and tri-captain Ryan Branigan, who Gutierrez said has much potential, leads the team.

“We have a bunch of good kids, and our JVs are really good, too,” Gutierrez said. “So it looks like we could be on an upward cycle for the next four to five years.”

Gutierrez said he and his team are adjusting well to the soccer season now played in the winter instead of the fall.

“It’s still early, but we’re liking it so far,” Gutierrez said. “In the fall, we had to practice on grass and rarely played in our stadium because of football. So we no longer have that conflict.”

Republic FC vs. ’Quakes – Republic FC will play a friendly against the Earthquakes on Feb. 25 at Avaya Stadium in San Jose.

It will be the sixth meeting between Republic FC and its former Major League Soccer affiliate.

The clubs have met in a preseason friendly in each of the past three years, as well as twice in the U.S. Open Cup fourth round. San Jose has won all five meetings.

The Earthquakes now have an affiliation with Reno 1868 FC, which begins play this season.

Republic FC signings – Forwards Wilson Kneeshaw and Christian Chaney, midfielder Daniel Trickett-Smith and defender Elliott Hord have re-signed with Republic FC for the 2017 season.

Kneeshaw and Hord were late-season signings in 2016 and helped propel Republic FC to the USL Western Conference regular-season championship.

Kneeshaw, a native of England, came off the bench in five games and scored three goals. Hord, a former UC Davis standout, made seven appearances for Republic FC and had a match-winning assist against the Orange County Blues on Sept. 3. Chaney, also signed late after playing for the Fresno Fuego, appeared in Republic FC’s season finale, a friendly against Chivas.

Trickett-Smith intially signed with Republic FC last May and made 14 appearances and scored two goals, including one against his former team, the Liverpool FC U21s, in a friendly.

Koval retires – Republic FC midfielder JJ Koval announced Wednesday that he is retiring from pro soccer.

A Stanford graduate, Koval was a first-round pick (ninth overall) by the Earthquakes in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft. He played 39 games over two seasons with San Jose, then appeared in 30 games last season after signing with Sacramento upon his release by the ’Quakes. Koval played three total games on loan with Republic FC while with San Jose in 2014 and 2015.

“We are disappointed to lose JJ, but we completely respect his decision,” said Republic FC coach Paul Buckle in a release. “He played much of last season with an injury (hernia) and still made an impact for us.”

Koval appeared in 27 USL matches and scored a goal against Saint Louis FC on Aug. 13.

“I'm so grateful for my time at Sacramento Republic FC,” Koval said. “I want to thank all of the amazing fans who support the club week in and week out and who make Sacramento the place to play.”

LaGrassa departs – Matt LaGrassa, another late-season contributor for Republic FC this past season, has signed with Reno 1868 FC.

The former Pleasant Grove High School and Cal Poly midfielder hardly played for Sacramento at the beginning of last year, then was loaned to the Tulsa Roughnecks FC for nearly month during the summer. He returned to Republic FC and played in 12 USL matches, starting eight and contributing a goal and two assists.

Hansen gets combine invite – Former Jesuit standout Niko Hansen, coming off an All-American career at New Mexico, has been invited to the MLS combine Jan. 8-12 in Los Angeles. He is one of 53 college players invited to the combine, which precedes the MLS SuperDraft on Jan. 13.

Hansen, a forward, helped the Lobos to their first Conference USA tournament championship and a NCAA second-round appearance. He had 28 goals, including 11 game-winners, for New Mexico.

Bill Paterson: 916-326-5506, @SacBee_BillP