Soccer

MLS’ Timbers break with Republic FC, form USL Pro team

Republic FC co-founder and president Warren Smith said of USL Pro: “The league is proving to be a true development league for MLS.”
Republic FC co-founder and president Warren Smith said of USL Pro: “The league is proving to be a true development league for MLS.” jvillegas@sacbee.com

Republic FC will no longer have a pipeline to the Portland Timbers.

The Major League Soccer team will field its own USL Pro team next season, ending its affiliation with the Sacramento franchise that is making a strong bid to move up to MLS, the United States’ top men’s league.

The Timbers’ MLS rival, the Seattle Sounders, also will field a USL Pro team in 2015.

Timbers 2 and Sounders 2 are the newest franchises for USL Pro, a third-tier league that will expand from 14 to at least 22 teams before the start of the 2015 season.

Portland and Seattle join the Los Angeles Galaxy, Montreal Impact and Real Salt Lake as MLS teams that own USL Pro teams.

Timbers 2 will play at the University of Portland’s 5,000-seat stadium. Sounders 2 will play at a 4,000-seat stadium at Starfire Sports in Tukwila, Wash., which also houses the Sounders’ training fields and academy.

Several Portland players were loaned to Republic FC during its first USL Pro season, the most prominent being goalkeeper Jake Gleeson, who played in 18 matches and had a key role in Sacramento’s championship.

Midfielder Steven Evans also finished the season with Republic FC as a reserve, while several others, including midfielder George Fochive and defender Alvas Powell, played in Republic FC matches before being recalled by the Timbers.

While Portland general manager Gavin Wilkinson said the affiliation with Republic FC was beneficial, Timbers 2 will be submerged in the MLS team’s culture, and the USL Pro team’s coaching, training and operations staff will report to Portland coach Caleb Porter.

Republic FC co-founder and president Warren Smith said Portland’s decision shows how USL Pro is growing.

“The league is proving to be a true development league for MLS,” Smith said. “Now we are going to have more regional competition and some more really good teams, which only strengthens our league.”

Smith said Republic FC hopes to continue its affiliation with the San Jose Earthquakes, though a new agreement has not be finalized for next season. Former area high school stars Adam Jahn (Jesuit High School) and Tommy Thompson (Granite Bay) were among Earthquakes who played for Republic FC this season.

Smith said there are no plans to have a second MLS affiliation.

“We originally didn’t plan to have two affiliations last season, but we were asked by the league because it was a transitional year,” Smith said. “Our goal is to help the San Jose Earthquakes and be a good partner there.”

Republic FC also is exploring starting a developmental youth academy, possibly as early as next year. It would start with U-18 and U-16 teams but eventually include younger players.

While Republic FC will try to keep its core group of players together, Smith said Preki, Republic FC’s coach, and technical director Graham Smith hope to find a few more players though a series of tryouts this weekend and in November, December and January.

Former Sacramento State star Max Alvarez and defender Emrah Klimenta made the Republic FC team from tryouts last season, and both played key roles in the team’s successful debut season.

Sacramento will hold its first tryout from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Cosumnes River College. The cost to try out is $200. For more details, go to sacrepublicfc.com.

Call The Bee’s Bill Paterson,

(916) 326-5506.

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