While there’s been plenty of buzz about the possibility of the Kings’ ownership group led by Vivek Ranadive investing in Republic FC as it makes a push to join Major League Soccer, coaches and players from the first-year franchise had little to say Tuesday about ongoing developments.
The word “Kings” drew about as much enthusiasm as seeing a referee pull a red card from his pocket.
“I definitely want to be the starting point guard,” goalkeeper Dominik Jakubek said as he walked off the Cosumnes River College field. “I like what Ranadive has been doing with the Kings. He’s done great things for the community. But I can’t say anything more.”
Added Preki, Republic FC’s coach: “I’m not really at liberty to make any comments on that. That’s stuff for the front office. We’re here to make sure we progress on the field.”
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Star midfielder Rodrigo Lopez also was reluctant to say much about the Kings’ potential purchase of a share of the soccer club.
“I’ll be excited when it is finally announced – that it’s happening for sure,” Lopez said. “I like that the fans are into it and people are getting excited about it. But not until it’s written on paper can I say anything about it.”
Though a sale has not been announced, top executives from the Kings and Republic FC are set to brief MLS officials today in Portland about their interest in being a member of America’s top soccer league while also providing details of potential stadium locations.
Jakubek and Lopez agreed that the latest developments only reinforce how big a splash the third-division USL Pro team continues to make locally in a sport that is on a steep rise in the United States.
Republic FC has drawn more than 118,000 fans to its games this year, smashing the USL Pro attendance record with five regular-season home matches left, including Saturday against OKC Energy FC at Bonney Field.
Jakubek said that if Sacramento joins the MLS, the credit has to go to Republic FC President Warren Smith and the team’s dedicated front office.
“I know we get all the credit because we are playing,” Jakubek said. “But we wouldn’t be in this talk without all the hard work they’re doing. If a sale does happen, I hope that they are still given the chance to keep doing the great work they’re doing.”
With Sacramento TV ratings for the World Cup among the highest in the nation, and with an all-time American record soccer crowd of 109,000 turning out at Michigan Stadium last Saturday to watch Manchester United defeat Real Madrid, the 26-year-old Lopez said the growth of the sport in the United States in recent years has been amazing to watch.
Lopez, a USL Pro Player of the Year candidate, played his first three seasons as a pro with Chivas USA from 2005 to 2007, and Preki was his coach.
“MLS has changed so drastically,” Lopez said. “Last night I was thinking, ‘I wish I was a little younger and getting into (MLS) now.’ There were a lot of things MLS needed to fix when I first got into the league, and they’ve done everything correctly.
“Soccer isn’t only getting big, but MLS is really getting big and starting to make a buzz not just here, but all over the world. It’s awesome.”