Soccer

Five goals for Republic FC this season

Republic FC looking to build a stellar team for 2016

A younger, less experienced Sacramento Republic FC begins the 2016 USL season looking to return to the championship form of its inaugural year two seasons ago. The team had a sizable offseason makeover that included the departure of five starters,
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A younger, less experienced Sacramento Republic FC begins the 2016 USL season looking to return to the championship form of its inaugural year two seasons ago. The team had a sizable offseason makeover that included the departure of five starters,

Maximize its Major League Soccer affiliation

At least eight MLS players on loan from San Jose and Portland contributed to Sacramento’s success in its 2014 inaugural championship season. Timbers goalkeeper Jake Gleeson was with the team the entire season and was one of the league’s best when healthy. Earthquakes forward Adam Jahn played most of the year in his hometown and scored seven goals. But Republic FC didn’t get an MLS player last season until Aug. 29, when San Jose sent JJ Koval, Tommy Thompson and Mark Sherrod to Sacramento. The trio played a huge role in a 3-1 win over Tulsa at Bonney Field that helped Republic FC make the playoffs. But that was Koval’s only appearance, and Thompson played in just two matches. While the turnaround already appears under way with San Jose coach Dominic Kinnear loaning Jahn and Thompson for Friday’s season opener at the Seattle Sounders 2, Republic FC has to hope that its more than just a cameo appearance by the two former area high school stars.

Make Bonney Field a home-field advantage

Republic FC went 13-2-2 in USL regular-season and playoff matches at Hughes Stadium and Bonney Field en route to the league title in 2014. But Sacramento was 7-5-3 at home in 2015, including its first-round playoff loss to LA Galaxy II. Opposing teams love the electric atmosphere, too, and no longer are wide-eyed and intimidated by the taunting Tower Bridge Battalion.

Score first, score often

Republic FC players were frustrated with opponents “parking the bus,” a defensive strategy of waiting long stretches to counter-attack that sometimes was extremely effective. The strategy won’t work if Sacramento can score quickly while also improving its goal-scoring efficiency.

Find a new playmaker

Rodrigo Lopez was one of the USL’s top players and became the franchise leader in goals (26) and assists (19) during his two years in Sacramento. Midfielder Danny Barrera, who joined the team in midseason last year, looks like a leading candidate to fill the void left by Lopez’ departure to Mexico. But also keep a eye on newcomers Harry Williams and Chase Minter.

Make set plays a potent weapon

Republic FC scored three goals on free kicks but failed to convert on any of its 161 of its corner kicks during USL play last year. Republic FC coach Paul Buckle says players must be more “ruthless” on set plays.

Bill Paterson: 916-326-5506, @SacBee_BillP

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