Third-year defender James Kiffe scored his first professional goal Saturday in Republic FC’s 4-0 win over the Sonoma County Sol at Santa Rosa High School.
But as far as Kiffe is concerned, it doesn’t really count.
“It’s a preseason game,” Kiffe said. “I’m still waiting for the first one. But it’s a good start.”
It may have been a good start offensively for Republic FC, too.
Republic FC had just two goals in its first three preseason matches, albeit two were against Major League Soccer sides. Republic FC lost 1-0 to the Colorado Rapids and 2-1 to the San Jose Earthquakes, both at Bonney Field. Its third match was a 1-0 win over Sacramento State on Feb. 24.
After the first 45 minutes against the fourth-division Sol, Republic FC had only Tommy Stewart’s penalty kick goal despite outshooting the National Premier Soccer League side 13-2. Then Emrah Klimenta, Stewart and Kiffe scored to give the team its first multigoal match since a 3-0 win at the Portland Timbers 2 on Sept. 12.
“In the second half, we started to play a little more and stopped hitting long balls and just played through them, which we have the players to do it,” Kiffe said. “As they got tired, we were able to break them down pretty well. That’s something I think we will be able to do this year.”
It also was encouraging that Klimenta and Kiffe, the team’s two outside defenders, had goals. Both grew up as forwards and have a mentality for going toward goal, something encouraged by coach Paul Buckle and former coach Preki.
(Republic FC coach) Paul (Buckle) is confident in Emrah (Klimenta), and I to get forward, get assists and go to goal, too. It’s nice to have a little more free rein.
James Kiffe, Republic FC defender
Kiffe, 27, thinks both may get even more scoring chances after the departure of star midfielder Rodrigo Lopez, who had 26 goals and 19 assists in his two seasons with the team.
“That’s the reason Paul is playing with two holding (midfielders), it lets us go forward a little more,” Kiffe said. “Losing RoRo, we’re going to have to figure out how we are going to put up those stats. Paul is confident in Emrah and I to get forward, get assists and go to goal, too. It’s nice to have a little more free rein.”
Kiffe said his 86th-minute goal happened because of outstanding interplay with Joaquin Rivas and trialist Manny Cazares.
“Because of two perfect plays from them, I had a ton of time (to shoot),” said Kiffe, who put a left-footed chip over the Sol goalkeeper in their one-on-one duel. “Sometimes as an outside back, the stars have to align for you to get all the way forward. It’s nice when people reward you for making that 50-yard run.”
Some Republic FC players are looking forward to this week’s three-friendly trip that starts Thursday at the Fresno Fuego, continues Saturday at UC Santa Barbara and concludes Sunday at the Ventura County Fusion.
Kiffe, who grew up in Santa Barbara, was a four-time all-league player at San Marcos High School (where he had 53 goals and 32 assists) and the Big West Conference Defender of the Year at UC Santa Barbara in 2011.
Midfielders Alfonso Motagalvan and Danny Barrera also are former UC Santa Barbara players, and Barrera and midfielders Ivan Mirkovic and Agustin Cazarez are former Ventura County players.
“It will be nice to see some of the guys, some of my old coaches,” Kiffe said. “It’s almost like alumni weekend for me.”
Defender signed – Republic FC added Carlos Rodriguez, a 19-year-old center back from the Mexican developmental academy CESIFUT. Buckle and director of football Graham Smith saw Rodriguez during their scouting trip to Mexico in November.
Hitting the road
Republic FC plays three friendlies this week:
- Thursday: at Fresno Fuego (Chukchansi Park), 6:30 p.m.
- Saturday: at UC Santa Barbara (Harder Stadium), 7 p.m.
- Sunday: at Ventura County Fusion (Ventura College), 3 p.m.