The Colorado Rapids travel to Sacramento, California to play USL side Sacramento Republic FC on Saturday night at Bonney Field on the grounds of Cal Expo in Sacramento. I had a chance to exchange questions with Josh, Managing Editor of our partner blog Indomitable City Soccer who cover the Republic.
Here is what we spoke about:
Burgundy Wave: For Rapids fans that don't know much about Sacramento Republic, what can you tell us about the team and the MLS ambitions of the club?
Indomitable City Soccer: Sacramento Republic began playing in 2014, first at the 20,231 capacity Hughes Stadium and then at the 11,542 capacity soccer-specific Bonney Field.
Although the Republic have only been in existence for a short time, the team already has a lot of history behind it. They are the first ever team to win the USL championship as an expansion team. They also hold multiple USL attendance records: the four highest attended single games in USL history (three at 20,231, one at 17,414), highest total attendance (158,616 in 2015), and highest average attendance (11,330).
To put it bluntly, Sacramento Republic is the people's choice for the next round of MLS expansion. They were in that position in the last round too, but it's hard to argue with MLS's promise to Beckham and the potential of the Miami market. That being said, Sacramento has checked off all the boxes and have, in my admittedly biased opinion, put together the best and most comprehensive bid in recent memory.
BW: Paul Buckle has been in charge since last summer when Preki left....how have things changed under Buckle and what in the heck happened to Preki?
ICS: There have been some changes to both the team's roster and style of play since Buckle took over from Preki.
At first it didn't look like there was going to be much roster turnover when Buckle took over, but this offseason proved those first impressions wrong. Star players like Rodrigo Lopez, Mickey Daly, and Nemanja Vukovic have all left the Republic for other opportunities, which has led to some expected backlash from Republic fans. While there have been new signings, for the moment they are overshadowed by the players who have left.
On the field, the team's style is a bit of an unknown at the moment. From day one Buckle has stressed that he wants to keep the team's identity as an attacking team without sacrificing the balance between offense and defense, something that the Republic had trouble with at times under Preki. This focus on balance, combined with the loss of quite a bit of the team's core, has many out here unsure of exactly how this team is going to play in 2016.
Last we heard, Preki is trying to help his friend Milan Mandaric find a club to buy. The thought is that once Mandaric makes his purchase, Preki will become the new coach.
BW: What are your expectations for Republic this season? Could they win another title? Or are playoffs a reasonable expectation?
ICS: As I mentioned before, things are a bit up in the air for the Republic at the moment. That being said, with this team's history of success, making the playoffs is an absolute must. At the moment I'm too unsure of how things will shape up to say whether I expect a championship, but there's still enough quality on the team to make me think that it is a possibility. The big deciding factor will be how they replace the stars that left and how Buckle's style fairs in it's first full season.
Predicted Starting XI (4-4-1-1): Dominik Jakubek; James Kiffe, Mike DaFonte, Chris Christian, Emrah Klimenta; Danny Barrera, Ivan Mirković, Octavio Guzman, Max Alvarez; Thomas Stewart; Adnan Gabeljic.
Predicted Score: 1-1
You can find my answers to his questions over at Indomitable City Soccer.