Despite it being an important position in modern soccer and one of the spots with the most talent on the team, Sacramento Republic is very thin at fullback. Both starters are experienced and great players, but beyond them, there is essentially no one.
Let's take a look at how the depth chart shakes out at this talented, but not very deep, position.
1. James Kiffe- Other than a few weeks last season, Kiffe has been the first choice left back for the Republic since he first joined the team as a rookie late in the inaugural 2014 season. In just six weeks he went from being an unknown to hoisting the USL Championship trophy with the rest of his teammates.
From the start Kiffe has shown talent going forward out of the Republic's own half. Whether it is with or without the ball, good things tend to happen when he gets involved in the attack. He can take players on one-on-one, and on occasion has taken on - and beat - multiple players at once. He can also pass well, and is one of the best on the team at whipping crosses into the box.
Under Buckle he has not been overlapping or taking players on in one-on-one situations quite as often as he did under Preki and has mostly been used to send deep crosses into the box. Whether or not that continues this year remains to be seen.
2. Agustin Cazarez- A natural midfielder, Cazarez is here as the second choice left back because of his brief time starting there last season when Preki benched Kiffe. Despite never having played in the spot before, he put in some good performances and now seems to be fairly comfortable in the position. However, his game does not translate to fullback quite as easily as Kiffe's does. He is not as quick on the flanks as Kiffe and is less accurate with his crossing.
That does not mean, however, that Cazarez is a bad fullback, just that he plays it a bit differently. During the times we have seen him play there he has generally not pushed up as far or as often, and has been used to help circulate the ball more often than make pinpoint crosses.
Although he is the absolutely the second choice left back, Cazarez is not a bad choice. He has filled in capably numerous times, most recently two weeks ago against the Colorado Rapids.
1. Emrah Klimenta - A member of the Republic since the inaugural season, Klimenta is an integral part of the team. He has been the starting right back since the first kick of the first game, and holds multiple team records for time spent on the field. Klimenta currently holds the record for: most games played in all competitions (71), most games started in all competitions (67), and most minutes played in all competitions (6,107). He has only missed 8 games across all competitions in the past two years.
Although he did not play fullback until signing with the Republic, Klimenta has taken to the position with gusto. His combination of speed, technical ability, and passing ability make him one of the best examples of a modern fullback that one is likely to see below the MLS level. He is dangerous pushing forward from the right back spot and has caused problems for many an opposition fullback, most recently Shaun Francis of San Jose. He has consistently been one of the best players on the team and has deservedly become a fan favorite as a result.
2. ??? - There is currently no one on the Republic roster to act as a backup for Klimenta. Last season the team had Matthias Bonvehi as the second choice right back, but with him gone the only player who has any experience playing that position is Octavio Guzman, who played a grand total of once when Klimenta was injured in 2015.
While being behind an iron man like Klimenta on the depth chart has historically been an exercise in benchwarming, there is still a need for at least some depth. Hopefully the Republic can pick up a player to fill that backup role before the season starts.