Sacramento Republic FC were ranked first in the USL Western Conference for fewest goals allowed last season at 31. A big part of the Republic's defensive dominance was due to the play of their All-League Second Team center backs Mickey Daly and Nemanja Vuković. Unfortunately for the Republic, both Daly and Vuković have moved on. Daly has signed with the Bethlehem Steel FC of the USL and Vuković signed with NASL club Indy Eleven.
Where does the exodus of half the defensive back line leave the Republic? The answer may come from the off-season signings of defenders Chris Christian and Mike Da Fonte.
1. Chris Christian- Chris Christian played for the Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC last season on loan from the now defunct NASL team, Atlanta Silverbacks, and helped secure a third place finish in the Western Conference. The Republic got a firsthand look at Christian when the Switchbacks played at Bonney Field last year for a 1-0 shutout. Christian has looked good in the preseason versus MLS opponents and looks to be a starter at center back for the 2016 season.
2. Mike da Fonte- Mike da Fonte came from the New York Red Bulls II last season where he was a solid fixture in their defense. Da Fonte also has experience in Europe playing as a starter for S.C. Espinho and Pedras Salgadas of the Portuguese second division. Da Fonte has also played well this preseason and has partnered well with Christian to make a formidable back line.
3. Derek Foran- Foran got his start with the Republic last season, playing in 23 matches. He generally comes off the bench as a substitute and is a reliable defender. This preseason, Foran has been subbed in for the second half of both matches against the Colorado Rapids and the San Jose Earthquakes. It looks as if Foran will continue to be the third choice for the Republic this season.
It's too early at this point to tell if the defense will be better this season with Christian and Da Fonte than last season with Daly and Vuković. However, I do like what they have shown in the preseason and they look to fit Coach Paul Buckle's system. The defense for the Republic was strong last season and if the team wants to make a run for the championship it needs to be the same way this time around. After all, you know what they say. Defense wins championships.
Let us know what you think about the Republic's new center backs in the comments below.