Soccer

Republic FC leader says bond with Earthquakes remains strong

Republic FC’s Adam Jahn heads the ball during the United Soccer League match between the Sacramento Republic FC and the Harrisburg City Islanders at Hughes Stadium in Sacramento on Saturday, April 26, 2014.
Republic FC’s Adam Jahn heads the ball during the United Soccer League match between the Sacramento Republic FC and the Harrisburg City Islanders at Hughes Stadium in Sacramento on Saturday, April 26, 2014. rbenton@sacbee.com

Although they have an affiliation that worked well last season, the San Jose Earthquakes have yet to loan a player to Republic FC this year, even though both teams are well into their respective seasons.

Republic FC president Warren Smith insists that there is no rift between the clubs before their Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup showdown Tuesday night at San Jose’s Avaya Stadium.

“We’re a proud affiliate of theirs,” Smith said. “We have a lot of respect for their ownership group, and we cherish that relationship. ... We’re looking forward to a fun and exciting match on Tuesday.”

Smith says the Earthquakes have been plagued by injuries this season and have had players moving in and out of the team because of national team commitments.

Last season, popular forward Adam Jahn (Jesuit High School, Stanford) played on loan to Republic FC for most of the year and was one of the team’s key players. Midfielder Tommy Thompson (Granite Bay High, Indiana) played nine matches with Sacramento, and forward Mike Fucito and midfielder JJ Koval also had brief but contributing stints in Sacramento.

But starting forwards Steven Lenhart and Innocent Emeghara are dealing with possible season-ending knee injuries, opening the door for Jahn and promising second-year forward Mark Sherrod to see minutes with the Earthquakes this season.

Thompson has been playing with the U.S. U-20 Men’s National Team in New Zealand, and standout rookie midfielder Fatai Alashe missed a handful of matches competing with the U.S. U-23 Men’s National Team in France.

The Earthquakes also may lose forward Chris Wondolowski and midfielder Cordell Cato for a spell during upcoming CONCACAF Gold Cup play. Wondolowski, who leads the team with eight goals, plays for the United States and Cato for Trinidad and Tobago.

“We talk constantly back and forth with their coaching staff,” Smith said. “Once they get healthy, we believe they’ll be sending players our way. We thought Adam, Tommy and JJ all got better during their time playing for Preki. So we want to continue to help San Jose with their player development.”

The Earthquakes may lose forward Chris Wondolowski and midfielder Cordell Cato for a spell during upcoming CONCACAF Gold Cup play.

Republic FC is in the beginning stages of expanding its own player development system with the rolling out of its United States Soccer Development Academy program for boys ages 12 to 18. Things are progressing so well, Smith said, that a player or two could wind up joining the senior team next season, if not this year.

But while all the major area youth soccer clubs are working with Republic FC, the Earthquakes recently announced they had partnered with a 4-year-old El Dorado Hills soccer club to create a feeder program to its Bay Area-based academy program.

Smith said that while San Jose’s announcement was a surprise, the move was understandable because, as Northern California’s only current Major League Soccer team, “it’s still their market.”

Despite that, Smith believes the San Jose ownership group led by John Fisher and Lew Wolff supports Republic FC’s bid to join them at the next level. He says it not only will grow the popular rivalry between the two but increase interest in the sport throughout Northern California.

“Our conversations with Mr. Fisher and San Jose are going well,” Smith said. “They’re providing input on how we should grow. They know the league likes a second team in Northern California, and they think it makes perfect sense, though they feel it’s got to be done right.”

Another thing that makes sense, Smith said, is seeing what aspects of San Jose’s $100 million stadium might work in Sacramento’s proposed soccer-specific railyard stadium. San Jose’s 18,000-seat stadium is one of the most technologically advanced in the world.

“There are some elements in their stadium that we really like, such as the biggest bar in the world,” Smith said. “The pitch of stands make you feel that you are right on the field. It’s a very European model.”

San Jose’s 18,000-seat stadium is one of the most technologically advanced in the world.

Smith said Earthquakes president Dave Kaval will take Sacramento officials on an in-depth tour of the stadium this month.

“There’s a lot of things we think we can learn from them,” Smith said.

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