Soccer

Ivan Mirkovic leaves Republic FC for Orange County Blues FC

Republic FC Coach Paul Buckle explains why Ivan Mirkovic left Sacramento

Republic FC coach Paul Buckle talks on Thursday, March 31, 2016, about why midfielder Ivan Mirkovic has left the USL franchise in Sacramento for the Orange County Blues FC. Buckle said Mirkovic, who was coming off a training-camp ankle injury, wan
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Republic FC coach Paul Buckle talks on Thursday, March 31, 2016, about why midfielder Ivan Mirkovic has left the USL franchise in Sacramento for the Orange County Blues FC. Buckle said Mirkovic, who was coming off a training-camp ankle injury, wan

Another player from Republic FC’s inaugural 2014 USL championship team has departed.

Midfielder Ivan Mirkovic joined Western Conference opponent Orange County Blues FC after his transfer by Republic FC. Mirkovic is the sixth starter from last year to leave a team that has become significantly younger.

Republic FC director of football Graham Smith said Sacramento initially sought to place Mirkovic on loan with the Blues FC, who coveted his services, while he continued to get back into form from an ankle injury.

But Smith said Mirkovic wanted assurances he could return as a starter, something Smith and coach Paul Buckle wouldn’t guarantee.

The feisty 5-foot-6, 150-pound Mirkovic was considered Republic FC’s glue and enforcer in the defensive midfield during the 2014 and 2015 seasons and wore the captain’s band in the season-opening friendly Feb. 13 against the Colorado Rapids before his injury. The native of Serbia had 31 starts and was third in minutes with 2,759 last season. He started 27 matches and played 2,324 minutes in 2014.

But former San Jose Earthquakes player JJ Koval, who was signed by Sacramento on March 23, and versatile veteran Agustin Cazarez played well in Buckle’s two-man defensive midfield formation in Republic FC’s 1-0 season-opening win March 25 at Seattle Sounders FC 2. Mirkovic did not play, though he was among the 18 players who traveled.

“We’re in a constantly evolving situation, and we can’t satisfy everybody that wants to be on the first team,” Smith said. “Paul and I talked at length with Ivan on Wednesday. We wanted him to come back and fight for his place, but he elected to go where he knows he gets first-team football.”

The Blues finished first in the Western Conference last year.

“I am excited to join OC Blues FC and I’m very excited for a new challenge in my career,” Mirkovic said in a release by the Blues FC. “When the (regular-season) champions are interested in you, then you must not hesitate for a single second, and I am looking forward to what lies ahead.”

Republic FC on television, radio – Channel 31 will broadcast eight Republic FC home matches this season, including Saturday’s home opener against Arizona United SC. The others are St. Louis FC, April 23; LA Galaxy II, June 4; Seattle Sounders FC 2, July 2; San Antonio FC, Aug. 6; Portland Timbers 2, Aug. 20; Orange County Blues FC, Sept. 3; Galaxy II, Sept. 17. KHTK 1140 also will broadcast nine Sacramento home matches, though not Saturday’s home opener.

Sherrod rejoins Republic FC – The San Jose Earthquakes loaned forward Mark Sherrod to Sacramento. Sherrod played on loan in six matches for Republic FC last season and had a goal in Sacramento’s 3-1 home win over the Tulsa Roughnecks FC.

Bill Paterson: 916-326-5506, @SacBee_BillP

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