Six glorious years covering Sacramento Republic FC. Wow. It’s hard to process it’s been THAT long. I have sat through countless of matches in the rain, cold and the heat. And there’s always a two week stretch in the summer where the bugs come out in full force, where you think you’re taking part in a Starship Troopers film.
I was there for the first match ever at Hughes Stadium where 20,000 + showed up in full force to support only like the people of Sacramento can do. I remember it being chilly that evening, and despite a 1-2 loss to the Harrisburg City Islanders (now Penn FC), everyone in attendance knew they were part of something special. What a tremendous evening.
I was also there for the Miracle at Bonney. For those that weren’t, and only hear stories of that evening, believe the hype. It was special. I have been lucky to witness many great sports moments in-person (e.g., Mike Bibby’s Game 5 winner in the 2002 Western Conference Finals, Travis Ishikawa’s walk off home run in 2014 to send the San Francisco Giants to the World Series), but I have to say Rodrigo Lopez’s second half hatrick against the LA Galaxy II in the Western Conference Final might be tops. The roar of the crowd and pure jubilation still gives me chills to this day.
But how and why did I start covering the Republic?
Out of college, I briefly worked in the sports industry. Coming off an internship in the sports department at ABC 10 my senior year, I landed a media relations job with the Sacramento Monarchs and did that for one season. It was such a thrill. I loved that job and being around the players, but for a variety of reasons, it didn’t work out.
But that’s where I met the great Erika Bjork, who as many of you know, was the VP of Marketing and Communications for the Republic up until just a few years ago. So when I was looking to get back into covering sports a decade plus later, Erika was the first person I approached about obtaining a media credential. Without hesitation, she made it happen.
For those that have been following my work for a while, you know that prior to Indomitable City Soccer, I first started blogging about the Republic on the now defunct website Sports Glutton. I read the articles I wrote six years ago now and cringe. But it was a start and I am eternally grateful for Erika giving me that opportunity (even though I was writing for a no-name blog) to fulfill my passion for writing/covering sports. So if you read this Erika, thank you for giving me a voice.
Soon after getting my shinny credential, I remember doing my first one-on-one interview with Warren Smith in May 2015. Man was I nervous. Were my questions good? Did they make sense? What I thought was going to be a five minute conversation turned into 20 minutes. I couldn’t believe it. Warren treated me like we were childhood friends. That encounter encouraged me and infused life into what I was doing. The late great Maya Angelou has a famous quote. Part of it says, “people will never forget how you made them feel.” And I never forgot that moment with Warren and how he made me feel. What a gentleman.
Interviewing players was always a blast. I was interested in diving into the person behind the professional athlete and soccer player. What did they do in their time off? Who knew Josh Cohen liked to tinker with electronics? I didn’t. What kind of State Fair food would they eat if given the chance? Hayden Partain emphatically chose fried ice cream.
One of my favorite moments was asking RoRo after the USL Championship game in 2014 what it meant to him to have his family in attendance. There was a brief pause before he looked up and answered. I don’t remember exactly what he said, but it clearly meant the world to him. I felt privileged to share that moment with him.
But the questions and interactions with players didn’t always go smoothly. I remember interviewing Harry Williams soon after he arrived from Cheltenham Town and butchered “Cheltenham” in our first conversation. Like, really bad. You could tell he was kind of annoyed, but he didn’t beat me up for it.
I remember advocating that Evan Newton earned the shirt as goalie in the midst of a platoon situation with Dominik Jakubek, who was a fan favorite. I liked Dom, but thought Newton was the clear choice. Newton eventually won out, and I swear the rest of the season Jakubek stared me down, even though now I recognize he likely wasn’t looking at me. But boy did it strike some fear. I thought, did I push this too far?
Handling post-match interviews with the coaches was always fun to navigate. Preki was challenging. He often interrupted your questions or gave short answers that were useless, so I quickly learned to bring only the best, fully baked questions.
Paul Buckle was much more conversational in both wins and losses. In his early days, he was notorious for making us wait beyond the league mandated time for coaches to conduct post-match interviews. I did appreciate that he thoughtfully answered our questions, and after he left the Republic, we still chatted from time to time.
Simon Elliott was challening at first. He warmed up to me, but always kept things really close to his chest, which I respected. But he was always accommodating, and like Buckle, sat through many silly questions for my Extra Time segments.
I was recently contemplating my favorite interviews and moments. Obviously, the interview with RoRo and Warren as mentioned above were highlights, but I also enjoyed my interview with General Manager Todd Dunivant this past season, my conversations with Cameron Iwasa and Emrah Klimenta when they came back to the Republic after their MLS stints, and Carlton Cole (just teasing).
I loved when Kevin Nagle busted my chops at the MLS announcement in October for some of the things I had previously written. As background, he had sent me a few DMs on Twitter over the years, which I never responded to and he jokingly called me out for it. Nagle is awesome and I am grateful for all that he has done for the Republic and our city.
That day was also so memorable, right? It was a defining moment for our city. As I was walking back to my car after a long day covering the announcement, it hit me that I had reached the end of the road covering the club. Call it a sense of accomplishment of seeing things through the MLS announcement or a realization that it was time to turn it over to someone else, but I knew that evening it was time to hang it up.
But I leave with a full heart. I have met some incredible people inside and outside of the organization and these last six years has given me far more than I deserve. I have friends that work at the club, and I am excited about what is ahead for them.
My wife asked me the other day what I was most proud of. I think the answer is simple — the work I did at Indomitable City Soccer and at Sports Glutton. Whether you think I was a mouthpiece for the club, hated my work, or loved it, I covered the team as good as anyone in Sacramento over the last six years. Through many stretches, myself and several contributors at ICS generated coverage of the team when nobody else was, and I hope people appreciated that.
I tried to be honest too, and never got in the way of a club announcement even when I knew what was happening ahead of it. That approach built trust.
There was a lot of sacrifice, including many nights away from my young family, but my wife graciously gave me the hall pass most nights because she knew how much joy it brought me. She provided unwavering support through this journey, and if there is one person to thank more than anyone, it’s her. She won’t read this, because she never reads my stuff, but it needs to said.
As far as what’s next for me, 2020 will bring a new beginning of sorts. In addition to my day job as a PR flack in health care, I will be serving as Vice Chair of Leadership Sacramento (and Chair in 2021), and I’m stepping into the Club Manager role with my neighborhood soccer club where I will also continue to serve as a coach for my daughter’s team. So yeah, the schedule is not getting lighter.
But I will miss covering the Republic immensely. It’s certainly not easy to walk away from something you have dedicated so much time to and love, but I know it’s the right decision. There is likely change coming to Indomitable City Soccer in the coming months as it relates to AB 5 implementation in California, but please continue to support the good contributors here. Hopefully it will all work out for the best.
Thank you all for the love and support. Glory, Glory Sacramento!