Republic FC is like Big West all-star team to Sac State coach

Republic FC midfielder Max Alvarez will face his alma mater Wednesday, Feb. 24, in a friendly match at Sac State, where he was considered one of its greatest players.
Republic FC midfielder Max Alvarez will face his alma mater Wednesday, Feb. 24, in a friendly match at Sac State, where he was considered one of its greatest players. Special to The Bee

Sacramento State men’s soccer coach Michael Linenberger will experience a little déjà vu when his Hornets host Republic FC in a friendly Wednesday at 3 p.m.

Republic FC forwards Mackenzie Pridham (Cal Poly) and Cameron Iwasa (UC Irvine) and midfielders Agustin Cazarez (Saint Mary’s), Joaquin Rivas (UNLV) and Matt LaGrassa (Cal Poly) played against the Hornets in college. Midfielders Danny Barrera and Alfonso Motagalvan and defender James Kiffe are alums of the Hornets’ Big West Conference rival UC Santa Barbara. And Republic FC midfielder Max Alvarez was one of Sac State’s greatest players.

“There will be some familiar faces and some guys who did a little damage against us when they were in college, so it’s going to feel like going against a Big West all-star team,” said Linenberger, in his 28th season with the Hornets.

Linenberger said the match will be a huge challenge for his veteran squad, which already has shown an ability to hang with professional teams. The Hornets were in Costa Rica for nine days last month and were 2-1-1 against some of the country’s top professional reserve teams. “The trip exceeded my expectations in every way,” Linenberger said. “We got to play against some very talented teams; it was great for team bonding as well as an excellent life experience.”

After unpublicized exhibitions against Republic FC the last two seasons, Sac State got the go-ahead from the USL team to promote the match and use it as a fundraiser for the program.

“This is the first time we have pre-sold tickets for a soccer match,” said Linenberger, a Republic FC season-ticket holder. “So even though it’s a mid-week afternoon game, we’re expecting a good crowd.”

About 350 tickets had been sold by Tuesday afternoon. Hornet Field, which doesn’t have lights, holds 1,500.

Linenberger said the match is the highlight of the Hornets’ spring season and an opportunity for players with aspirations of playing professionally to measure themselves against the Republic FC players.

The Hornets are loaded with former area high school stars – Rio Americano’s Paul Geyer and Galt’s Javier Munoz are two of three Sac State captains – and Linenberger said the team might be his best since 2009 and 2010, when Sac State won Mountain Pacific Sports Federation championships before moving to the Big West.

But he’s also impressed with what a younger Republic FC team has done in its first two matches, late-minute losses to the Colorado Rapids and San Jose Earthquakes, both Major League Soccer teams.

“Some of their veteran guys with more professional and MLS experience have moved on, but it looks like they are going to be a very exciting team,” Linenberger said. “So for our players it’s going to be a fantastic opportunity.”

Pridham gets contract Republic FC made it official on Tuesday it signed Pridham for the 2016 season. He scored a first-half goal in Saturday’s 2-1 loss to the San Jose Earthquakes and made the team from one of Sacramento’s open tryouts.

Pridham, 25, played in 20 matches last season for the Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2. The Toronto native played in 2014 for the North American Soccer League Minnesota United and on loan with the USL Pittsburgh Riverhounds. He had 27 goals, including 12 game winners, in 70 appearances from 2009-2013 at Cal Poly.

Bill Paterson: 916-326-5506, @SacBee_BillP