Back by popular demand (just kidding), I bring to you the second installment of Extra Time with Buckle. My goal for this new segment is to bring Indomitable City Soccer readers a unique and up close view into all things Sacramento Republic FC directly from Manager Paul Buckle throughout the 2017 campaign. If you missed the first segment, you can read it here.
As you will find below, we covered quite a bit of ground during the 10-minute interview. As always, feel free to leave a comment, or if you have a question you’d like me to ask in a future segment, please ping me on Twitter at william_hodges and I’ll do my best to work it in.
With that out of the way, let’s get to the interview.
The Republic announced a few weeks ago the re-signing of Chris Christian. How does he look, what are your expectations of him and will he get the start this Saturday versus Tulsa?
Well, I wouldn’t tell you if he was going to be [starting] honestly, as much as I like you, because we want to keep our cards close to our chest. But Chris doesn’t need any introduction to the football club, and he doesn’t need any introduction to the players. They know who he is and our fans know. [That said], he has been away for a while, he hasn’t played a lot of games, but Chris is a naturally fit guy. He’s just super fit…and he’s a professional. He’s not given me any grief because he’s not started the first two games. He totally understands…and what he also understands is that we won those first two games. It’s always a danger for me as a manager to start messing around with the team while we’re doing so well. You can de-energize players if you do that and there has to be a fairness attached. But one thing I think is safe to say is that you’ll see Chris Christian in a Sacramento shirt this season, which I am delighted about because he was a big, big player for us last season. But at the moment, the players are in the team on merit and all the players understand that they’ll get a chance.
With Klimenta back in the starting XI, does he slide back into right back, and if so, what does that mean for Elliot Hord who has played really well so far this season?
I get it. I mean, I like it that you think this way. It’s a good headache for me to have. I mean, I don’t need to change Elliot Hord. He’s playing so well, so it’s fine that he stays there. Emrah Klimenta is playing well at right side center half, so I don’t have to change. Is Emrah out of position? No he’s not, because I truly believe he can play center back. In the modern game now, where you want center backs to come out with the ball, he’s ideal. He’s added another position to his game. [This] is going to maximize his chances in his career of going to the top, which he wants to do and we want him to do. I think he can be an accomplished center back, and accomplished right back. But Hord has been terrific. There’s no two ways about that. Elliot Hord has been tremendous both with and without the ball. It gives me pace down that side. So yeah, I’m trying not to look for all the answers straight away…I am just concentrating on the next game and feel that the boys who played the other night deserve to keep the shirt.
As you head into this Saturday’s match versus Tulsa, what challenges do they present?
Well, they’re unbeaten. I know that they got points taken away, but they have a new manager, new setup, new players…and there’s always a honeymoon period I suppose where everyone is buzzing. But they’re doing very well. I think we’ll get an open game by the looks of how they want to play, which is good for us…I think it’s going to be a tough game…any game on the road [is]. We got a really, crazy sort of fixture list coming up where we play so many games on the road in quick succession. But what we got to do is channel our focus into what we’ve been doing right in the last two games. We’ll take the full squad up with us and just go all out to win the game. Go all out to win it knowing they have strengths, but also be sure that they know we have strengths.
Eight of your first eleven games are on the road including two three game road trips and this current stretch of three road games in seven days. I know scheduling is out of your hands, but what’s your feeling on it? Do you just weather the storm?
Openly and honestly, it’s never happened anywhere else in professional football. It’s not good for us at all. It’s not good to play three games in seven days. You become susceptible to injury and all types of things, and it’s not good to play that many away games in a row…I don’t get it. So, you’re right…I don’t have a say in the scheduling…but this [all the road games] doesn’t help.
I was joking earlier that it’s almost like the Republic did the league scheduler wrong to get that many games scheduled on the road to start the season…
I don’t know. I’m pleased that you can see that, so you might be able to do the job for me to ask the questions, because, like I say, we want to have high standards in USL, and there’s great standards in USL, but it’s questionable as to why we have to go and play that many games on the road. Look, the one thing we won’t do though is make excuses. We played five games on the road last year…that was a marathon. What I’ll do is play our team against Tulsa and then we’ll look at how the boys are Sunday morning, [effects] of the traveling…we have to take everything into consideration. We had a thing where we were going to stay on the road for 10 days, but I spoke with a few of the guys…the experienced players, and they said no, let’s break this up and come back Wednesday, come back to our homes and our training grounds for two days, and then go again. So, it’s not ideal, but what we got to do is try and pick up as many points as we can.
By all accounts, it’s been a superb first two weeks for the USL. Attendance has been strong, new soccer-centric facilities have opened, and the level of play is arguably as good as it’s ever been. From your vantage point, is this a natural progression of the league, or does it speak more to the growth of soccer in this country?
Well, I think you have to look at the top. The MLS…it’s exciting, big crowds, stadiums, great teams, great managers. And then you got the Premier League, which is shown here. The coverage is incredible. So, I think it’s a boom and the USL is doing a brilliant job. Jake Edwards is taking it forward brilliantly. I think what Jake has done is tremendous so far…he gets it, was a player himself, is passionate and works hard. So, it’s brilliant. We get to see USL first-hand, and the growth as you say, we know on the field the bar has been raised. That’s obvious. It’s pretty much night and day in terms of where the league is now as to where it was in 2014.
As always, Indomitable City Soccer would like to thank Coach Paul Buckle for his time and for his part in bringing Extra Time with Buckle to our readers.