Scoring is obviously an element of play that is vital to any team's success, and Sacramento Republic FC were fairly pedestrian in terms of output from their strikers last season. They ranked ninth (tied) in the league in goals scored even though they ranked third in shots taken. While not entirely on the strike-force, they also ranked first (or last depending on how you look at it) in the USL in offsides called against. Results from last season clearly showcase that the play from the Republic forwards could use some refinement.
However, this is where things get tricky as much of the production up front has vanished from the club. Aside from the notable departure of Rodrigo Lopez, gone also is fan-favorite Justin Braun and his 8 goals and team leading 24 shots on goal in 2015. A lot of the offensive production will need to be filled by returning forward Thommy Stewart as the rest of the striker position is, at the moment, un-solidified and mysterious at best. Thankfully for the Republic, new blood has been brought in and the unproven talent within the roster is going to be given the opportunity to shine.
Let's take a look at who exactly might send fans into joyous euphoria by scoring goals for the Republic this season.
1. Thommy Stewart- Thommy Stewart is essentially the only remaining player of note up top for the Republic. With this in mind I am fairly certain he will, at least initially, receive the lions-share of playing time. An increase in appearances (he only appeared in roughly 65% of regular season games last season) this season will certainly aid in improving upon the 3 goals he netted for the Republic last season. Stewart has already torched the Sonoma County Sol for a brace and hopefully he will remain in-form when the games count.
2. Harry Williams- Harry Williams has the natural allure of a young English player and certainly hopes are high for his talent to transition to the level of play in USL. Overall, his performance this preseason has been fairly unimpressive, though he did net a goal against the Sacramento State Hornets. While much about his fit with the club is uncertain, his ability to find success coming from Cheltenham Town to a strong Republic squad should not be one of them. I would expect to see a steady rise in production as the season plays out.
3. Mackenzie Pridham- As Cal Poly's all-time scoring leader, Mackenzie Pridham is no stranger to putting the ball in the back of the net. Already netting one against the MLS's San Jose Earthquakes and having another called back due to a dubious offsides call, Pridham has seemingly made himself at home with the Republic and personally I see great things from him this season. Thankfully the Republic removed his original trialist label and have officially signed the young striker. If he continues to play as he has in each of his appearances this pre-season, I would be willing to bet his playing time and impact on the game will continue to grow.
4. Cameron Iwasa- The Sacramento native is returning for another season and perhaps this will be the one where he gets a bit more burn. Republic fans will not forget his game-winning goal against English Premier League side Sunderland AFC last year and are definitely expecting big things from the talented youngster. Iwasa led all Republic rookies in minutes played last season and was even named to a USL team of the week. It will be interesting to see how Coach Buckle plans to utilize his dynamic play.
Republic fans have every right to be uneasy about the state of the team heading into this season after the departure of many talented and popular players. What the team does have, however, is a growing treasure chest of young players who stand to improve a great deal with increased playing time. As a fan I am very excited at the possibilities in the upcoming season and hope that Coach Buckle will strive to develop the future of the club while balancing being as successful as possible.
Let us know what you think about the Republic's possible strikers in the comments below.