Republic FC seeks breakthrough against Earthquakes

Sacramento Republic FC head coach Paul Buckle, center, says the upcoming match with the San Jose Earthquakes will be “another tough game for us.”
Sacramento Republic FC head coach Paul Buckle, center, says the upcoming match with the San Jose Earthquakes will be “another tough game for us.”

Republic FC has been knocking at the door of an upset win over its Major League Soccer affiliate, the San Jose Earthquakes, since Sacramento’s inaugural USL season in 2014.

San Jose has won all four matches between the two during the past two seasons. Two were decided by a goal, and at the U.S. Open Cup at Avaya Stadium last June, the match ended in penalty kicks after the two played to a 2-2 draw in regulation and extra time.

So Republic FC coach Paul Buckle expects another competitive match when the teams meet in a friendly Saturday at Bonney Field.

Buckle, who took the team’s reins last season after Preki departed, will coach against the Quakes for the first time. He’s looking forward to matching wits with San Jose’s Dominic Kinnear, an MLS coaching veteran.

“Hopefully we’ve said enough good things about Dominic and his team that he will go easy on us,” said a smiling Buckle. “It’s another really tough game for us.”

Buckle was buoyed by his team’s performance in a season-opening 1-0 loss to the Colorado Rapids in a friendly last Saturday at Bonney Field. Sacramento kept the Rapids scoreless for 86 minutes, and Buckle felt his team played well enough to have been rewarded with a scoreless draw.

Republic FC had been training for just two weeks, played with seven new players and had to do some juggling when starting outside defender James Kiffe was sidelined by illness.

“Whenever we play at Bonney Field, it doesn’t matter whether we’ve had one day’s training or a year’s training – we want to put on a good performance,” Buckle said. “I think we did.”

Buckle has watched video of Republic FC’s 6-5 penalty-kick loss to the Earthquakes, a match in which Sacramento led 2-0 in the 74th minute after goals by Rodrigo Lopez and Emrah Klimenta.

But U.S. national team forward Chris Wondolowski tallied two goals in five minutes to send the match into extra time, then PKs. Wondolowski also had a goal during the PK shootout.

“You can look at that match and say we threw it away, but the Quakes showed great spirit, and Wondo is a great striker that can score in any given moment,” Buckle said. “If you look at us, whenever we play against higher level teams like the Quakes or the Rapids, our boys have to be right on top of their games to compete and make a game of it. We did it last weekend, and we’ll be looking to do it again this weekend.”

Newcomers hold their own ‑ Buckle was pleased with the performance of the team’s new players in their first match at Bonney Field.

He praised defenders Mike da Fonte and Chris Christian and goalkeeper Evan Newton, three players with USL experience.

Buckle also thought new forwards Harry Williams and Mackenzie Pridham and veteran forward Tommy Stewart were solid.

“If you’re playing a team that is above you, the first thing is to have a decent structure, and that starts from the front,” Buckle said. “All our strikers did that by keeping their defenders busy. We didn’t allow them to move forward. They had to mostly move from side to side.”

Homecoming for Quakes – Former Republic FC loan players Adam Jahn (Jesuit High School) and Tommy Thompson (Granite Bay) aren’t the only Quakes with area ties. Thompson’s older brother, midfielder Tyler, was selected by the Quakes in last month’s MLS Supderdraft after helping Stanford win its first College Cup championship last December.

Veteran forward Quincy Amarikwa, who was traded to the Quakes by the Chicago Fire midway through last season, holds most of UC Davis’ Division I scoring records. As a senior in 2008, he helped UCD reach the second round of the NCAA playoffs, the Aggies’ best finish in their D-I era.

Where’s Adnan? – Buckle wouldn’t comment on the absence of forward Adnan Gabeljic, who played in 10 games last season for Sacramento but wasn’t among the team’s 22 players last Saturday night.

“Some things need to be kept in house,” Buckle said.

Republic FC announced in December that it had picked up the contract option on the former Saint Louis University standout. During the offseason, Gabeljic trained with Liga MX side Atlas FC.

Bill Paterson: 916-326-5506, @SacBee_BillP

Related stories from Sacramento Bee