Late last week, after nearly three years as manager of Sacramento Republic FC, Paul Buckle, the longest tenured coach in Club history, came to a mutual agreement with the Republic to part ways. It was a rather unceremonious ending to what was a brilliant run as manager.
And despite sentiment among some that Buckle was not the right manager for the Republic, whether it was his style of play, inconsistent formations/rotations, or simply because the team didn’t win enough games (particularly in the playoffs), he did lead the Qualis to a 31-19-21 record. The record doesn’t immediately blow you away, but it’s impressive when you consider what he achieved.
For those that don’t remember, Buckle took over midway through the 2015 season after Preki abruptly left the team, and posted a 5-3-4 record in all contests the rest of the way, including an impressive 1-0 win over Sunderland AFC of the English Premier League in his first match as manager.
He led the Club to a Western Conference Regular Season title in 2016, and last season, his team posted a 4-1 victory over Real Salt Lake of Major League Soccer (MLS) in the U.S. Open Cup, advancing the Republic to the fifth round of the tournament for the first time in history. And who could forget the upset win Buckle and the boys handed top-seeded Real Monarchs SLC, on the road, in the first round of the 2017 playoffs?
Buckle also grew the Republic’s academy, several of his players went on to play in MLS (Mike da Fonte, Cameron Iwasa and Emrah Klimenta) and there were multiple National team call ups – most recently Emrah Klimenta (Montenegro) and Trevin Caesar (Trinidad and Tobago).
He was a gentleman, a tremendous interview and always took the time to thoughtfully answer questions from the media – no matter how ridiculous some of the questions were (many of which came from me). Buckle always went to great lengths to explain the game and the nuances. I always appreciated that about him.
Fair or not, I do wonder whether his success was measured against the 2014 inaugural season when the Republic won the United Soccer League (USL) Cup. It’s kind of impossible to live up to such a magical season, especially considering the level of play has increased so much from where it was four years ago, but I get it. That’s the bar that was set.
My sense is when fans reflect on the Buckle era years from now, they will realize that he was in some ways underappreciated. While far from perfect, consider for a moment that he always fielded competitive teams, never missed a playoff, and genuinely loved and appreciated the support of the fans.
In the end, a new day is here. Simon Elliott has taken over as manager and is leading the Republic moving forward. This is without question an exciting time.
But as we start a new chapter in Republic FC history, it’s only right to close out the chapter before.
In that spirit, thank you Paul for all you’ve given to our Club and community, and for deepening our love for this amazing game. Wherever you land next, we’ll be cheering you on.