If Republic FC is fortunate enough to win another USL championship this season, maybe club officials can land an invitation to the White House for one of those ubiquitous sports photo-ops with the president.
The team already has someone who could provide a tour. Veteran midfielder Alfonso Motagalvan has been there and done that as a member of UC Santa Barbara’s 2006 NCAA championship men’s soccer team.
“Going to the White House was an awesome experience,” he said. “We got the tour, then President Bush came in and introduced himself to us and said a couple of jokes. We got to take a picture with him, then had a big luncheon on the White House lawn. Whenever I watch the TV show ‘Scandal’ with my fiancée (Kristen Hoskinson), I’ll see a room where I’ve walked through.”
Motagalvan and his Gaucho teammates were quite the story that season. Unranked and unseeded, UC Santa Barbara won it all.
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“We were unsung, and I was a sophomore on a young team with only two or three seniors,” Motagalvan said. “I know it’s still early, but I already see some similarities between that team and our team this season. I feel the same camaraderie.”
Except that the 29-year-old Motagalvan is now one of the old guys on a younger and less experienced team that lacks the star power of last season’s club or the 2014 USL championship squad.
But Motagalvan said he is experiencing a “rebirth.” The 2015 season was a disappointment. He appeared in only two USL matches and played a total of 40 minutes. It was a challenging season for someone who was a starter or key contributor off the bench for three minor-league teams during his previous five seasons before coming to Sacramento.
He joined Republic FC because it was a chance to return to California – he was born in Santa Rosa and raised in Gilroy – and play with some familiar faces. He captained the 2009 Ventura County Fusion Premier Development League national championship team that was coached by Graham Smith, now Republic FC’s technical director. Sacramento midfielder Danny Barreraalso played on that team.
“When he came to us, his fitness wasn’t where it needed to be, and he wasn’t really on top of the game,” Smith said. “The one thing that has impressed us all is that he came back as a new man. I think he wanted to prove to people and to himself what he can do.”
Motagalvan has played in all four of Republic FC’s USL matches and got his first league start for Sacramento on Sunday in a 1-0 loss at the Portland Timbers 2.
“I set him a challenge in the postseason, and the challenge was to improve his fitness levels,” Buckle said. “And I can tell you now he’s looking like an athlete. He has given himself a great chance. He has come back very fit and strong. He is a great example to everybody that if you stick at it and keep believing, you’ll get your opportunity.”
Motagalvan said it just reinforces Buckle’s mantra that every player, from starter to reserve, is valuable.
“I know it’s a cliché to say it’s a brotherhood, but it really is with this team,” Motagalvan said. “The club’s motto is Urbs Indomita (The Indomitable City), and that’s the type of team we are. We have a deep squad where every player is good enough to start and do the job.”
Match at a glance
REPUBLIC FC VS. SAINT LOUIS FC
When: Saturday, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Bonney Field
TV: Ch. 31
Radio: Sports 1140
The skinny: This will be the first meeting between teams that have been identified as the most likely to land two of the four Major League Soccer expansion slots expected to be announced in the next 12 months. Republic FC (2-1-1, seven points) has allowed a league-best one goal. But Sacramento has scored just two goals, the fewest in the 15-team Western Conference. Saint Louis FC (1-2-2, five points) moved from the Eastern Conference to the Western Conference after last season. The second-year franchise is captained by midfielder Chad Bond, a former Republic FC player. Chicago Fire goalkeeper Patrick McLain, who played for Sacramento last season, was loaned to Saint Louis on Friday by its MLS affiliate. He joins defender Patrick Doody and midfielder Drew Conner already on loan to Saint Louis from the Fire. Defender AJ Cochran is a former Houston Dynamo player.