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Sacramento Republic FC 2020 season preview

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Will it be a return to title-winning ways?

Joe de Ocampo

Sacramento Republic FC kick off the 2020 USL Championship season with a home match against Tulsa FC on Saturday at Papa Murphy’s Park. With the season opener right around the corner, let’s go through a bird’s eye preview of Republic FC for the coming season:

How did they finish in 2019?

14W-14L-6W in the regular season, which was good for 7th place in the Western Conference, earning a playoff berth. In the postseason, Sac Republic won their Western Conference play-in game, 2-1 over New Mexico United, then beating rival Reno 1868 FC 3-1 in the conference quarterfinals, before falling 3-0 to El Paso Locomotive in the conference semifinal round.

What’s new in 2020? Biggest change from last year?

The biggest change comes at the top, as Mark Briggs takes over from Simon Elliott as the head coach. Elliott got Sac Republic in the playoffs both of his seasons but with standards sky-high for this club, that was seen as not enough to push them into the upper echelon of contenders in a packed field.

Enter Briggs, who is aiming to bringing Republic FC back atop the heap, to win their first title since 2014. While using much of the same roster as last year with a handful of reinforcements, Briggs recently told Indomitable City Soccer in an exclusive interview that he wasn’t angling to declare “Win it all or bust” but he’s setting the bar very high and hoping to provide a pleasant style of play at the same time.

What’s the one storyline you’ll be following?

How will Rodrigo Lopez fit into the 2020 USL Championship? The Sacramento Republic legend, who played for the team in 2014-15 and was second team All-USL Pro in 2014 and first team All-USL Pro in 2015, while winning USL Cup final MVP honors in 2014, left to play in the first two divisions in Mexico in the interim, but is back at arguably the club where he’s found the most success in his career. Now 32, what will his level be in a league that has changed considerably since he last played in it, both the number of teams and quality of play rising significantly? If Lopez can play at a high level in his second stint at the club, that should help push Sacramento into a contender status.

Who’s out?

  • D - Mitch Taintor
  • M - Hayden Partain
  • D - Haris Chantzopoulos
  • M - Ray Saari
  • F - Stefano Bonomo

Who’s in?

  • GK - Adam Grinwis
  • F - Kharlton Belmar
  • D - Tomas Hilliard-Arce
  • M - Rodrigo Lopez
  • M - Andrew Wheeler-Omiunu

What’s the new jersey?

Courtesy of Sacramento Republic FC.

Republic FC have returned to the design of their inaugural jersey, with a red sash over a white background. Why look back to the past? In part, SRFC won the league title in their first season, 2014, and why not try to get that mojo back any way they can, right? Plus, the sash look is pretty timeless and classic.

Who’s the coach?

Mark Briggs, who we covered above. The Englishman divided his playing career between Europe and the U.S., including what is now the USL Championship, and he’s got previous managing experience in the league as well.

Projected ideal XI

LineupBuilder.com

To be honest, expect plenty of rotation in the lineup, with a few of these players getting the bulk of the minutes and many coming in and out a bunch. Sac Republic’s squad is hovering around 20 right now, with a few academy players likely to be in the mix over the course of the season, but there won’t be many passengers on this team, with most or all likely to see real playing time this year.

Expectations for 2020?

At minimum, this team should easily make the playoffs if they stay healthy, and having a small-ish squad is a risk when it comes to injuries. Republic FC are widely being projected to be a top four side in the Western Conference, and that feels reasonable. While earning another title is the ultimate goal, a high finish in the West and a deep run in the playoffs will be a decent season. But a title run would help continue building the local fanbase with MLS right around the corner.

What do you think? What are your expectations for 2020? Which player are you most excited to see this year? Let’s chat in the comments below!