I caught up with Sacramento Republic FC Manager Simon Elliott on Halloween afternoon to do our final Extra Time with Elliott segment of the season. Elliott and I discussed the playoff loss, the season that was, his thoughts on his first season as manager, plans for the offseason, and much more.
Hopefully you have enjoyed this segment this season. I certainly have enjoyed transcribing the interviews and bringing it to you. Without any further delay, let’s dive in.
I assume you have had time to reflect on the season...what are your key takeaways?
Well, I think we need to be better if we want to progress in the playoffs. The regular season ultimately ended up pretty good, but then we fell short in the playoffs. So we need to improve and that is the ultimate takeaway.
How would you assess your first year as manager?
[It is] too early to tell. I am sure there will be plenty of others that can do that. We are still winding down from the season. We plan to have meetings with the general manager, and Benjamin my assistant, to sort of go over what worked well and what didn't and how we can improve.
So there are definitely areas of improvement...that’s for sure. But you know, 65 points I think is a pretty decent return. But again, we didn’t get it done in the playoffs, so we are going to look at ways to improve on that.
Me improving in whatever ways I need to is an important part of that [too].
What are some of the immediate to-do’s for a manager following the end of a season?
Checking in with players. Making sure that we get them the results they need to come in next year in good shape [ahead of] the preseason. It is a difficult league, but it’s also a long offseason, which we need to make sure we manage properly because we don’t want guys to not be doing anything for long periods of time.
They need rest, they need to get away, but they also need to make sure they come in prepared, so I think [what] we basically want to do is set them up for success.
Are you able to step away for a bit to recharge given the length of the season?
Not yet. There is always something going on at the Republic and that's one of the reasons why we like it so much. It’s an exciting and dynamic place to be.
I think maybe around Thanksgiving there will be a little bit of time, but the offseason is a very important time as well. You have to make sure that you wind down the season correctly and connect with the right people within the organization. It is a good time to plan for next season and see what our needs are in terms of players.
But yeah, I think somewhere around Thanksgiving I’ll be able to take a little time.
Any specific needs that you and Todd have identified that you’d like to add heading into next season?
Some we have, some we haven't...because the USL season is still going and the MLS season is still going. [But] yeah, we have identified needs, but we haven’t identified specific players in all the areas. But as I said, all these seasons are still going, so it’s a little premature to do that.
Conversations are ongoing between Todd and myself and various agents and representatives. Players become available, but it doesn’t happen with the snap of the finger...it takes times to figure out. It’s an ongoing process.
I know you and the Republic have always been supportive of guys playing at a higher level or with their national team, but having said that, do you fear losing guys like Josh Cohen, Cameron Iwasa or Villyan Bijev, who could get a look from an MLS side?
No. I think fear is not the word I would use. You want to set people up for success. You want them to work hard, get better during the season and want them to perform. As a byproduct of that, if other people come looking, that is a credit to those players.
In a certain sense...that’s kind of what you want right? If folks at a higher level are not interested, then perhaps some of our players have not had the season they would have liked.
That being said, I think you just sort of need to acknowledge that's sort of the reality of professional sports. If you do well enough, someone else is going to start asking questions as to why. We can’t plan for that specifically, but we can prepare for it generally.
I noticed that after the playoff loss that you went over on at least two separate occasions to applaud the Tower Bridge Battalion and fans. I think we have asked you a million times how important the fans are, but there truly seems to be a connection between you, the players and the fans. What does that relationship mean for you and the players?
I mean, they are a huge part of the culture of the club. They have supported us when we’ve done well and supported us when we didn’t do as well. We are very appreciate of that.
Truth be told, I don’t always go over. Not because I don’t want to or think that I should, but I feel it is important that the players interact first and foremost with the fans and the fans interact with the players. That is a connection you always want.
But I wanted to make it a point to go over a couple of times just to say thank you. They mean a lot to the club and it’s such an important part of who we are and what we do.
We have been doing this segment all season. On a scale of 1-10, how happy are you that you don’t have to do this segment anymore for 2018?
[Laughs]....You know what, it’s actually fine. It’s not a problem at all. I’m always happy to talk to you. Which one is that? Would that be a 1 then? I’m not sure how it goes [Laughs].
[But] we appreciate your support and interest in what we're doing. We need to keep it going now, but have some work to do in the offseason to get it better.
Indomitable City Soccer would like to thank Simon for taking time out of his busy schedule this season to talk with us. Look for the Extra Time segment to return early in 2019! You can follow William Hodges on Twitter at william_hodges.