Justin Braun scored the first goal in Sacramento Republic FC history, the veteran forward going on to help the club win the USL Championship in 2014.
Now retired, Braun was a guest on the “916 Republic” podcast last week, and had a lot of juicy details to discuss in his career, from finding out he had been traded in MLS via the same internet notice the rest of us saw, to where he didn’t want to play and more.
Braun is inextricably linked with Preki, who discovered the Utah native as an amateur and who eventually went with the manager to Sacramento.
“I don’t know if it’s a good story, it’s a pretty crazy story,” Braun said on how he became a professional. “Coming from Salt Lake at the time, Salt Lake wasn’t a huge soccer hotbed. Growing up I actually didn’t make the big major travel team here. So when I was 16, 17, 18 I tried out for them, I wouldn’t make it and then they’d call me up three or four weeks after and say, ‘Actually we want you to play for us.’ And every time I was kind of like, ‘Nope, I’m going to play with this other team, you guys had your chance.’ But I had a good career in high school, I led the state in scoring my senior year, but didn’t get exposure, didn’t really have any college scholarship offers. My mom was a teacher at the community college so I was going to go there for free and get my [general education classes] done. They had a club team there, ended up playing there, really enjoyed my time there, had a good team. Tried transferring again after that to play in college, but again, no offers came my way. So I was just in Salt Lake playing in the men’s league around here.
“We ended up going to a tournament at the then-Home Depot Center, which is where Chivas and the Galaxy played. And Preki at the time was at one of the games, scouting another player, ended up seeing me, invited me to come to preseason and two weeks in, was offered a contract and kind of didn’t look back from there. Turned it into 11 years.”
There is a lot of good stuff in the interview, and it’s not a really long listen, so I would urge you to check it out.
While Braun genuinely enjoyed his time in Sacramento, his tenure with Republic FC ended on a sour note.
“That story was another shady situation. I can let it all out now because I don’t have anything to lose,” Braun began. “I actually had a guaranteed contract with Sacramento for that year and wanted to stay, loved Sacramento. My wife and I loved it, had a lot of friends there. But [head coach] Paul Buckle and [technical director] Graham Smith I guess, at the time, were not fans of mine and essentially forced me out, even with a guaranteed contract, basically threatening me that, ‘If you don’t leave, I’m going to trade you here or here, to all these smaller cities, smaller towns. Or you can come into preseason but you’re not part of the plan, you’re not going to play.’ A lot of that type of situation, so I had to kind of branch out on my own and was able to find Indy [Eleven], which in the end worked out well. But obviously with the guaranteed contract, I was told I would get a certain amount of months’ pay because I was due the money from them. Once it was all said and done they kind of went back on their word and cut that back a lot. So that was the situation there.
“I loved Sacramento but Paul Buckle and Graham Smith forced me out, which was unfortunate. It does happen in sports, it’s part of playing. But hopefully the fans didn’t think I wanted out of there, because Sacramento was one of the top places I was able to play.”
Definitely well worth a listen, Justin sounds like he has a lot to say after a long career.
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