Q. How could you describe the Northern California football scene?
If I had to pick one word to describe it, it would be “underrated.” We all hear about the awesome scenes in Cascadia, Toronto, Orlando, and other great markets in this country and Canada, but Northern California is, at the very least, close in terms of support. In addition to the always well supported San Jose Earthquakes, there is of course the support for Sacramento Republic. I would argue that the Republic are the most successful lower division franchise in US history if you combine all the on and off the field stuff
The Deltas are young, and only time will tell if they’re successful as well, but further down the ladder, there are many successful amateur clubs, especially at the Premier Development League level. There’s San Francisco City FC, which set an Open Cup preliminary record for attendance a few years back, the Burlingame Dragons, which are among the leaders in attendance in fourth division clubs countrywide, and the Fresno Fuego, who have been nothing but a feel-good story for their entire existence. Perhaps one of the biggest times for North Californian football was in the awkward post North American Soccer League (NASL), pre Major League Soccer era, where I believe four local clubs won the Open Cup, not counting the dream run in 1997 made by the San Francisco Seals, who reached the semi final stage.
Q. As resident of the area, were you surprised that the Republic became as much of a hit as it has been?
At the time I was, but doing more research for my book, I’m not. Football in Sacramento, at whatever level it’s been played at, has always been very well supported. The Sacramento Knights, an indoor team, used to average crowds between 8,000 and 10,000 and other teams have drawn good numbers, but generally sucked from an administrative side. The support has always been here, there just hasn’t been a competent group of ownership until the folks at the Republic came along
Q. Can you give us a brief or very long history of the Republic up until now?
Basically, two former Sacramento River Cats (AAA Baseball) employees in Joe Wagoner and Warren Smith got a bunch of people together, sat in a room for two years, and put everything you see now into reality. There’s a really long story, which I will touch on in my book, but those two guys started it, made some hires, had the first Sacremento Soccer Day, hired Predrag Radosavljević (better known as Preki), and the rest is history.
Q. Your all time First Eleven of the Republic?
A 4-4-2 formation lining up as – Gleeson; Kiffe, Vukovic, Daly, Klimenta; Lopez, Mirkovic, Barrera, Iwasa; Stewart, Jahn
Q. Best match or moment in the club’s history?
This easily has to be The Miracle at Bonney, where in the 2014 USL play off semi finals, the Republic came back from a 2-0 deficit with twenty minutes left to win 3-2 thanks to a hat-trick from Rodrigo Lopez. A close second would have to be Roro’s goal from midfield against Vancouver Whitecaps.
Q. Preki, what did he mean to the club?
Preki meant everything. The fans, players, front office, and everyone involved with the Republic loved him, and he certainly left his mark on the club. There’s a reason why Sacramento offered him a seven year contract extension. Seven years is a ridiculous amount to an extend a deal for a coach. When have you ever seen a coach in any sport anywhere in the world being offered seven years?
Q. MLS – when is it happening, how is it happening, and what do you make of all the rumors of them being told they are already in?
They’re not already in, but I would be very surprised if they weren’t in for 2020. I expect them to garner one of the next two spots that MLS hands out at the end of this year.
Q. Paul Buckle, what type of manager is he?
Much different than Preki, that’s for sure. Preki didn’t really care who watched his training sessions or who knew what he was going to do, he always just thought it didn’t matter because he could do it better. Buckle has everything under wraps at all times. He’s a hard worker, he’s always jotting something down or moving around in some fashion. I would say his style is very English though, a lot of getting the full backs into the attack and crossing the ball into the box.
Q. Perhaps you could tell us about the supporters groups?
While there are several including La Banda Del Puente (a Latin-based group) and Levee Patrol (a group of fans who sit on a nearby levee that overlooks the stadium), the main supporters’ group is the Tower Bridge Battalion. I’d say it’s better to read their website so they can tell you what they’re about.
Q. What are you working on, do, how can we find you? (basically bio yourself)
So I cover the Republic for a local newspaper, The Davis Enterprise. My weekly column is sometimes about them, but I do most of my work on them in the summer where I write a weekly notebook, gamers for all of their games, and various features. You can read me at davisenterprise.com or follow me on Twitter.
Q. USL – can you give us a run down of the league?
Of the two second divisions in the United States and Canada, it’s hard to say that USL doesn’t have the upper hand right now in terms of really everything. While the NASL is decently supported, all indications are that they’re bleeding cash and teams, while the USL has become a much more stable league and is thriving.