1) Way back in 2014, it seemed like all eyes were on Sacramento Republic — USL champions, the promise of MLS, all that glitz and glamor. Has that worn off somewhat in the intervening time?
I would say the shine has worn off a bit in the time since that amazing season, both for people in Sacramento and outside observers. That is not to say that Republic are no longer ready for MLS or that the fans are gone. Although the appeal of Republic as a shiny new toy has worn off in the three seasons since 2014, the fanbase is still strong and the city is more MLS-ready than ever before.
For those of us in Sacramento, Republic's 2014 season was a dream season and an extremely hard act to follow. The team has since come back down to earth a bit, doing well but not taking the league by storm as it once did.
The main difference to those outside Sacramento is that Republic is a known quantity now. The team and the city have been at the head of the MLS expansion game for so long that most outside observers have moved on to other shiny new cities like Cincinnati or San Antonio.
2) Your form hasn't exactly been setting things alight. What's something giving you hope ahead of this match? (Please don't say RSL's form. Or do, because it's probably true.)
Yeah, things haven't been going all that well out here recently. I suppose our teams have that in common. One ray of hope I have for Wednesday's match is the return of defender Emrah Klimenta from international duty with Montenegro. Part of what makes his return so great is that he is a talented player and one of a few players on the Republic who could make the jump to MLS tomorrow. Another reason I'm excited for his return is that it means Republic manager Paul Buckle might return to the 3-5-2 formation he trotted out for a few matches before Klimenta left late last month. The few games that the team came out in a 3-5-2 are among the Republic's best performances of the season.
3) What are some key players that could be differentiators for Sacramento?
Other than Klimenta, who I already mentioned, some key players for Republic are James Kiffe, Danny Barrera, and Jeremy Hall. Kiffe is Republic's left back and is frequently asked to push up the left side to support the attack and provide service into the box. He is another player that could make the jump to MLS and frankly it shocks me to that no team has snatched him away from Republic yet. Barrera is Republic's captain and one of the team's offensive catalysts. He leads both Republic and USL in chance creation. He would probably among the leaders in assists too if Republic's forwards could finish regularly. Jeremy Hall is one of team's most experienced players and is a strong presence in both midfield and defense. Although he is a natural midfielder, Buckle has put him in the back line when needed.
If Buckle goes with the 3-5-2 this is what I would like to see:
Goalkeeper: Evan Newton
Center Backs: Chris Christian, Jeremy Hall, Emrah Klimenta
Wingbacks: James Kiffe, Elliott Hord
Midfielders: Adam Moffat, Agustin Cazarez, Danny Barrera
Forwards, Sammy Ochoa, Trevin Caesar