As we continue on in our Depth Chart Series, a composition of new faces and a solid core will compose the defensive unit for Sacramento Republic FC.
Elliott Hord, Shannon Gomez, and Mitchell Taintor will be the only returning defenders from last season. New signings Matt Mahoney, Charalampos ‘Haris’ Chantzopoulos, and Dekel Keinan will look to stake a claim in the starting eleven. Assuming Coach Simon Elliott keeps a similar back line to that of the one that ended last season, there is only one open spot up for grabs.
The club surrendered the fewest goals in the regular season in the Western Conference. However, early goals plagued the Republic throughout the year. So it is imperative for this unit to turn in full 90 minute performances. In order for the Republic to remain strong in the back, they will have to remain consistent throughout. Now, let’s take a look at the players.
Shannon Gomez: Gomez is one of the strongest players on the squad period. I cannot count how many times I’ve seen him win a one on one dual to a well timed tackle. The Trinidad and Tobago international should have a spot on the starting squad.
Along with his defensive prowess, he also posed an attacking threat last season, going down the flanks with Villyan Bijev and Luis Espino. Gomez was a solid player that you could count on to put an end to the opponent’s attack, and we are looking forward to seeing more of that this upcoming season.
Elliott Hord: The Republic’s Goal of the Year (GOTY) winner. Hord provided much needed width for the Republic attack last season. He was another attacking threat that opponent’s needed to think about. But, with the signings up front, his role as a defensive winger will remain to be seen.
Hord is a solid defender. He can go against any of the league’s forwards and still come out with the ball. He should definitely reclaim his spot in the starting squad.
Mitchell Taintor: Taintor may face some stiff competition from the new signings. However, he should get the starting nod due to his defensive capability, both on the ground and in the air. His marauding runs through the center of the pitch are a sight to behold.
Taintor will look to improve upon his first season with the Republic. Though he is now without his usual center back partners, he will now look to form a new defensive pairing with Chantzopoulos or Keinan.
Matt Mahoney: One of the new signings for the Republic. Based on the friendly against Sacramento Gold, he will primarily be playing on the outside. So he will probably be challenging either Hord or Gomez for their respective positions. However, Mahoney is versatile since he can shift centrally if needed. Mahoney led his former club, Bethlehem Steel, in clearances, interceptions, tackles won, duels won, and aerial duels won. Mahoney can also move forward and create chances down the flanks. He would be a suitable starter if the position wasn’t already stacked as is.
Charalampos ‘Haris’ Chantzopoulos: A solid addition to the Republic. Charalampos brings size and athleticism to the Republic back line. He is not afraid to make a tackle in the midfield and he could serve as a target for set pieces in the opponent’s box. It will be a tossup between him and Keinan as to who gets the starting nod at center back alongside Taintor.
Dekel Keinan: From his native Israel to England, Keinan brings experience at a variety of levels. Lauded by FC Cincinnati faithful, he was vital to their regular season title last season. Keinan is a leader who prioritizes keeping the ball out of the net at any means necessary. But as mentioned, it’s anybody’s guess as to who gets the starting nod. I would give the edge to Keinan for his experience and defensive ability.
So, how do you feel about this group of defenders? Who do you think earns the starting spots in the squad? Sound off in the comments below.
It is worth noting that there are a number of trialists that are with the club at the time of writing. We are unsure as of their future, but I would expect at least one of these trialists to be signed to possibly round out the defender position.