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Extra Time with Buckle — Episode 3

The third installment of our series that brings a unique and up close view into all things Republic FC from the manager himself.

Alex Leguizamo/Indomitable City Soccer

In the midst of a road-heavy schedule to start the 2017 season (understatement of the year), I finally had a chance to catch up with Sacramento Republic FC Manager Paul Buckle this week for another Extra Time with Buckle segment ahead of Saturday’s clash against the undefeated San Antonio FC.

In this installment, we talk about the mood of the Club, the play at Fullback, Saturday’s upcoming match, the health of Carlos Rodriguez and Adam Moffatt, and more. I hope you enjoy!

Going back a few weeks against Timbers 2, you slotted Wilson Kneeshaw out wide and Trevin Caesar up top, and then last week versus Vancouver 2, Kneeshaw was back up top with Sammy Ochoa. From a tactical standpoint, are decisions like that made to counter something that you think the opponent wants to do, or are you still getting a look at players and/or how some of them might perform at different positions?

I felt Kneeshaw could play there [up top]. He’s quite dangerous. I remember one of the goals from earlier this season against Orange County where he got to the next channel, cut in, the ball popped down and Sammy was there to (Sammy Ochoa) smash it home.

Last week, we obviously also had Auggie (Agustin Cazarez) back too, which is good for us. So yeah, [some of it is due to] players coming back, but at home, we wanted to try and get as many players on the pitch as we could to cause some problems. So, there’s nothing tactical really about it, other than there’s been a couple of changes.

How would you characterize the disposition of the team right now given recent results? How critical was it to come away with a point against Vancouver 2?

Well, obviously when you’ve lost a couple of games, which actually we also did this time last season, you want to pick up a win as soon as you can, but a point isn’t a disaster on the road you know. [You have to] keep things in perspective, especially when it’s so early in the season. We are exactly on the same points as last season through six games played, so it’s funny how it can sort of spread itself out. We lost three games after winning three games. There’s obviously some highs and lows. As you know, last season we ended up going on a run and winning the Western Conference. So at the moment, we’re in a position where we’ve not scored for a few games, but again, it’s something that can happen. You’ve just got to keep believing. I’m sure it’s going to come good to us.

Given how important the fullback position is to the Republic’s attack, and the depth and experience you have at that position, how would you assess the job Kiffe, Hord and Klimenta have done so far? Are you looking for more out of them to help get the offense rolling out of the backfield? It’s obviously been an important piece to your attack over the years.

It has been…there’s no doubt it. I wouldn’t swap Kiffe and Emrah. I am amazed nobody has come in and taken them for a higher level. But I think they’ve become better and better over the years. I think their delivery now is good and I think we need to understand like last year…it took us a number of games to get the understanding [about] when they’re going to deliver and what type of areas. With the new players’ we have in the front line, it’s just going to take a bit of time to get that understanding.

They are crucial to what we do. Not many teams allow us to go through the middle of them. The space is on the outside, so it worked very well for us last year. Certainly, Hord, was unlucky to find himself out of the team over the weekend, as I chose to go with Julius James to give us some experience and stability there.

But Emrah and Hord on that right side have been excellent for the Club in terms of their attacking prowess and also their defensive responsibilities in making sure they defend well. Kiffe, obviously had a wonderful season last year. I think he has the most crosses this season in our league, so there’s good things to come. If they can keep performances high, the results will come.

Any update on the progress or timetable for Carlos Rodriguez? It looks like he was doing some light running last week. Also, any update on Adam Moffat?

Carlos’ [injury] was obviously a bad one, but he’s progressing very, very well to be back running this quickly. Those things can sometimes speed up fairly quickly. You get to a running point quite quickly with a fibula break, but it’s after that…it’s in the twisting and turning comes and the impact of that. I’m excited that he’s back on the training field and I’m excited for him.

As far as Moffat is concerned, it’s a strange one. Adam went into a challenge in one of the games away from home and injured that groin area, which can be quite problematic, so we’re being super careful with him. We hope to have him back soon, but at the same time, we don’t want to take any risks. We’re happy to have Auggie back from his concussion [too].

So, it’s not been ideal in terms of trying to get the team settled down, but like I said, with it being so early in the season, I’m pretty pleased with everything that has gone on as to where we are, and we really need to try and kick on again Saturday.

Speaking of Saturday, another road match against a good club who is undefeated in San Antonio. What challenges do you think they will present your Club?

Normally, I don’t start thinking about the game until Thursday when we look at the tactical side, but I’m looking forward to it already to be honest with you. I’m looking forward to going there against a team that is doing very, very well…they’re off to a terrific start. They have a lot of good players, they score fast, have a very good affiliation with NYC (New York City FC) and they have great support. It’s going to be a really good test for us and it’s one we look forward to. Last weekend, I thought we could have been a couple goals up with the chances we created early in the game from pressing high, but at the moment we’re not finding the back of the net, so against a side like [San Antonino], when we get the chances, we’ll have to make them count.

A few weeks ago the USL announced that they plan to develop a third-division league by 2019. How viable do you think this is and do you see teams in the Premier Development League making the jump?

Well, I don’t know too much about it to be honest. I’ve not paid an awful a lot of attention to it, but I just think the growth of the sport is wonderful to see. I think the USL has played a huge part in that over the last few years. We’re in good hands with the people running the USL as I’ve said before, and I think anything Jake (USL President Jake Edwards) does I’m sure it has a really good chance of coming off.

When you’re not guiding the Republic, aside from spending time with your family, what do you do to get away and wind down? Or do you never get a break?

Well, I find it’s pretty hard at times. Having said that though, I think we work it pretty well at Sacramento. I think Graham (Graham Smith) gives me enough of space. Graham and I will speak two or three times a day as he’s not with the Club, but I think at the moment we’re looking at the squad…we’re looking at the players we brought in. We’re analyzing all the time because it hasn’t settled down yet, so it’s a busy time.

My mind is always going when the players are giving everything they got, like the group we have, it’s difficult picking a team. I think the hardest thing for me has been picking a team the last four games. It’s one of those conundrums where you look at the start we had and don’t want to chop and change straight away. That’s probably been the biggest challenge as the coach…trying to pick that right team, making the right changes. And you know, as a group, I’ve been pretty pleased with how we’ve gone about our work. B

ut I love living in Sacramento, and just actually coming home is nice to be honest. With all the road trips we’ve had so far, home is a great place to start.

As always, Indomitable City Soccer (ICS) would like to thank Coach Buckle for taking time out of his busy schedule to talk with us. We look forward to bringing ICS readers the “Extra Time with Buckle” segment throughout the 2017 season. You can follow William Hodges on Twitter at william_hodges.