When Sacramento Republic FC announced that they had signed Gabe Gissie last week, an outsider might have been surprised at how the fanbase reacted.
To an outside view, signing a forward that has only 2 goals and 2 assists in 1290 minutes over three years is not exactly a cause for celebration. But this signing is special for us in Sacramento for a few reasons.
One reason is that Gissie is a Republic original. In fact, he was (by my count) the third player ever signed by the team, an 18-year-old coming directly out of the New England Revolution Academy program. Although that in itself does not exactly explain it — you’d be hard pressed to find any Republic fans that miss Jack Avesyan, for example -- it is a factor.
Gissie did not play a terribly big role with the team in either 2014 or 2015. In those years he only played 600 minutes in 22 appearances, scoring one goal (his first as a professional) and recording two assists.
He did, however, showcase blistering speed and some of the potential that made him so enticing to the team, which got fans excited about him.
As could be expected of a teenager in his first few years as a professional, Gissie had problems with consistency. He could come in as a substitute and completely change the energy of a game one week, and totally fail to make an impression the next. But it was the flashes of what could be that stayed in the minds of the Republic faithful.
Another reason was Gissie himself.
On the field, it was easy for fans to see how much effort he put in every minute, a dedication and work rate that endeared him to many despite lackluster numbers. From stories of Republic training sessions, that intensity was not limited to just game days either.
Off the field, Gissie has an amazing story of overcoming hardship in war-torn Liberia, first told to the public in an incredible story by the Sacramento Bee’s Bill Patterson, something that endeared him even more to the Republic fanbase.
Given how important many Republic fans saw him to the team’s future, it was a surprise when he and defender Mickey Daly chose Bethlehem Steel FC over the Republic in 2016.
Earlier today @BSteelFC announced signing of free agents Mickey Daly and Gabe Gissie. Both players will be missed by the club and SRFC fans.— Republic FC (@SacRepublicFC) December 11, 2015
Gabe Gissie is a huge loss for the Republic. He has the potential to be an MLS player— Evan Ream (@EvanReam) December 11, 2015
@EvanReam Big loss for Republic. Daly was always solid and dependable, Gissie will come back to haunt us, HUGE upside.— Dan (@danieltyree) December 11, 2015
Although Gissie did get significantly more playing time with Bethlehem in 2016, he did not have the breakout season that many were predicting for him if he had stayed in Sacramento. He played 690 minutes in 18 games, scoring only one goal, against Wilmington Hammerheads.
While his time with Steel FC was not a failure, it was no great success either.
So now that Gissie has returned to Sacramento for the 2017 season, where does he fit in?
Although that question is difficult to answer right now, it being in the middle of the offseason and the roster nowhere near complete, we can certainly speculate.
Gissie is listed as a forward on the Republic’s 2017 roster, the same listing he had in both 2014 and 2015. Despite this, most of the time that Gissie was on the field was actually at wide midfield, where he could use his speed and one-on-one ability to wreck havoc along the wings.
It makes sense that Gissie would be used in a similar role, especially since the Republic struggled to find a pair of wide midfielders and stick with them. The right side was fairly solid, with Danny Barrera spending most of his time (18 games) there, but there were 10 different players that started on the left wing at some point in 2016, with the one that appeared most often being San Jose Earthquakes loanee, Tommy Thompson (7 games).
One possible issue with Gissie at left midfield is that he is (if memory serves) right-footed. However, that issue could be resolved either by setting him up on the right side and Barrera on the left or keeping him on the left side and encouraging him to act as an inside forward, cutting in from wide areas to run at defenders and either shoot or create opportunities with his right foot.
Regardless of how exactly he fits into the 2017 Republic team, it is good to have Gabe Gissie back in Sacramento. Hopefully he is primed for a real breakout year, one that sees him start to regularly produce flashes of the player he could become.
How do you feel about Gissie returning to the Republic? Sound off in the comments below.