Rolling out of bed early yesterday morning, I didn’t quite expect to be greeted by news that the Sacramento Republic FC and manager Paul Buckle had mutually agreed to part ways, followed shortly thereafter by a media advisory that a press conference to announce the new manager was scheduled for later that morning. All this activity and I hadn’t even taken in my first cup of coffee.
But that’s the life of professional sports isn’t it? Unpredictable, ever-changing, frustrating, glorious, and for the teams that do it right, driven by an overarching goal to become better. For that fact alone, you have to applaud the Republic for making such a bold move.
Even though the timing was odd, it’s clear that this change had been in the works for some time now. You just don’t pull the plug on your manager the day training camp starts. This fact was more or less confirmed by Republic Chief Operating Officer and Chief Advisor Ben Gumpert during the press conference to introduce the team’s new general manager Todd Dunivant and head coach Simon Elliott.
So what we do know about Simon Elliott? As a player, the resume is rather impressive. The New Zealander played collegiately at Stanford University (45 appearances, 13 goals and 12 assists across two seasons), had a brilliant professional career with several Major League Soccer teams and Fulham FC of the English Premier League, and he made 69 appearances for the New Zealand Men’s National Team from 1995-2011, leading them to the 2010 World Cup.
Prior to being named manager of the Republic, Elliott had been working within the Club’s Youth Academy, leading the U15/16 team to consecutive playoff appearances. He was recognized as the 2016-2017 Western Conference U15/16 Coach of the Year, and seven players under his tutelage were called up to various levels of the U.S. Youth National Team. Not too shabby.
We will soon find out if the Republic made the right decision to make the change and promote Elliott to manager, but if you look at what he’s been able to accomplish as a player and coach, coupled with the reputation of being a humble leader and hard worker, you can start to see why the Republic are so high on him (and his coaching staff) and decided to go in a new direction.
That said, the move is not without risk. You just sacked the Club’s longest tenured manager in franchise history, who despite all the ups and downs, was 31-19-21. But the best moments in life are not without risk right? The foundation for his success is there. This is his opportunity to shine. Will he seize it?
Republic fans will be quick to embrace Elliott if his club embodies a style of play that dictates pace of play, punishes opposing back lines, is tactically creative (less long-ball play) and is just fun to watch.
Like I said, we will all soon find out. But I am excited and energized for this new chapter for the Republic. Let this new era of Republic soccer begin.