Keeping in mind that the season is not yet here and that team have promised new signings soon, let's take a look at how Sacramento Republic's offseason moves have shaped the team's roster needs.
The elephant in the room is the departure of Rodrigo Lopez, who was the face of the team since the beginning of the storybook 2014 season. With Lopez gone, Republic have lost their most potent attacking weapon, and with it a major piece of how they play the game. How the team will deal with the absence of Roro remains to be seen.
The team could try to use midfielder Danny Barrera, who was impressive last year after signing with Sacramento mideason, in that same role that Lopez filled. They could also compensate for such a big loss by changing their style of play away from one built to utilize Lopez's talents to something else. Considering that Coach Buckle seems to be looking to put his stamp on the team, I'm going to go with the latter.
Another area of concern is Republic's central defense, or lack thereof. With center backs Mickey Daly and Nemanja Vukovic heading off to join Bethlehem Steel FC and Indy Eleven, respectively, Sacramento have a lot of uncertainty in a pivotal position, with the big question of finding two replacements looming.
The three current options at center back for Republic are Alfonso Montagalvan, Derek Foran and new free agent signing Mike da Fonte, formerly of New York Red Bulls II. Montagalvan simply did not get many chances to play and did not impress when he did step on the field. Foran is familiar to Republic fans and was certainly a fine backup center back, but he did not exactly show well enough for me to be comfortable handing him a starting spot just yet.
DaFonte, on the other hand, is unfamiliar to most Republic fans but comes to Sacramento having served as captain of the baby bulls. This story penned for Indomitable City Soccer by Once a Metro writer Jake Evans might help to make DaFonte a bit more familiar to fans in the capital. For me, at the moment, DaFonte has the edge as a new starter.
Another spot to think about is right back. While Emrah Klimenta is undoubtedly an iron-man for Sacramento, leading the team all-time in minutes played, he is not immune to injury. As it stands now, there is no one on the roster who would be able to fill in for Klimenta should he be unavailable and we find ourselves in the nightmare scenario of not having him in the team. Regardless of how the team comes by it, a backup right back is definitely a need that should be addressed.
While they have lost some important players - namely Lopez, Daly, Vukovic, and Braun - Sacramento Republic FC is not necessarily in a terrible position. They have a talented roster that, while now missing many core elements, can be built into something great with the addition of talented new players.
In an interview with the Sacramento Bee's Bill Patterson, Republic Director of Football Graham Smith promised that the club will replace those that have left with exciting players, saying that "at the end of the day, the quality of the product this year will be the best ever." ICS has been told by a Republic official that new signings will certainly happen before Republic's training camp begins on February 1. The team is apparently dealing with a variety of challenges ranging from Visa applications to USSF to just general negotiations.
Republic need players in many spots on the field, whether that means bringing in backups to the guys already here or signing some fresh starters to change the shape of the starting XI.
The clock is ticking.
Update: Sacramento has since signed a new center back, Chris Christian. Read ICS writer George Shiel's story for more on that signing.