One thing about soccer, you learn to get over the need for immediate gratification.
Just ask the followers of Leicester City. It only took them 132 years to win an English Premier League championship. In baseball, everybody gets a title at least once a century, unless you’re the Chicago Cubs, and it’s been 108 years for you. This might be the Cubbies’ year, but they still have to weave through five more months of the season – more than enough time for them to break the heart of the Windy City.
Which brings us to Republic FC. The boys scored a couple of goals the other night. They’d gone 6 1/2 hours of play without one before Emrah Klimenta scaled the wall against the L.A. Galaxy II. It felt so good that instead of waiting 108 years, they decided to do it again only 46 minutes later, when young Harry Williams turned the trick.
All of a sudden, the team that had wallowed near the bottom of the Western Conference of the United Soccer League is wallowing near the top of the table.
The Republic won a USL championship two years ago in its inaugural year, beating Leicester City by 131 years. Sacramento went out in the first round of the playoffs last year and was headed for nowhere until it beat the first-place Galaxy 2-0 on Saturday night.
Maybe the club has a future after all.
Sacramento still is looking at four more years on the USL circuit, though, before joining Major League Soccer, so patience is a prerequisite for the club and its fans, both of which are getting their jobs done.
Besides winning the USL title its first year out, the Republic FC’s youth academy 17/18 team is beating out JV teams from the Seattle Sounders, Portland Timbers and San Jose Earthquakes of the MLS. By 2020, those boys will be ready for enrollment with the Republic in MLS. Maybe the next American-born MLS star is on the roster.
You already know how the fans fill Bonney Field for every home game. They also travel well. Saturday night, scores of them from the Tower Bridge Battalion took up a block of seats in the Stub Hub track stadium, where the lesser of the two Galaxies plays. The Battalion didn’t really need the seats – they stood the entire match, singing and shouting and showing the L.A. fans a proper way to have a good time.
Nobody seemed in a rush about anything.
“This is a project,” said the club’s director of football, Graham Smith. “That’s what the fans have got to understand. It’s a project. It’s not a five-minute wonder.”
Five minutes is nothing compared to the 390 that Project Republic played since it last scored.
Across the four full matches in that span, the Republic lost three and tied one. It did not look good for them going onto the Stub Hub side pitch where the sub-Galaxy plays.
Straight out of Carson, right next to Compton, the Republic now has to be thinking it is one of the better clubs in the conference. If it ever had any yips about its 2-3-1 start, it’s over them now, thanks to the decisive road victory over the league leader.
“This is great for the confidence,” Smith said.
Amid the recent troubles, Republic FC coach Paul Buckle canceled Tuesday’s practice last week and took the boys to Starbucks for coffee. He’s thinking of doing it again this week.
“I think that shows the psychology of the group,” Buckle said. “I’m not going to panic if we lose a game of football.”
On the night they finally scored, the players talked about the defense played by all 11 on the field. Goalkeeper Dominik Jakubek has been helped all year by a back line and midfield that have kept the pressure off him. On Saturday night, the Galaxy penetrated the final third several times but got nothing past the keeper’s nicely trimmed red beard.
“I’m actually kind of delighted I had some opportunities to make some saves,” Jakubek said. “As a goalkeeper, you want to do something. I felt I did a decent job coming out, cutting off the angles.”
Klimenta banged in the drought-killing goal on a free kick from 25 yards out. Defender James Kiffe set him up with a run down the left side and a smash that clipped the hand of an L.A. blue shirt to set up the set piece.
“We’ve got so much talent on this team, so many players who can put the ball in the back of the net,” Klimenta said. “For us to not be able to do it was obviously very frustrating. But that’s in the past. That’s over with. We move on. We scored two today.”
Williams, who is only 20, followed Tommy Stewart into the box while his fellow forward played give-and-go with Klimenta. Stewart back-heeled to Williams, who left-footed it cleanly past talented L.A. keeper Clement Diop.
“It was a great buildup,” Williams said of his first USL goal.
No matter how and when you get it, gratification always tastes good.