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A theory why Sacramento Republic have 2 starter-caliber GKs for 2021

Besides just having good players for the sake of it, of course.

Courtesy San Diego Loyal SC

When Sacramento Republic FC signed goalkeeper Tomas Gomez this offseason, it was slightly puzzling.

Not because Gomez is a good player — he’s actually a very good player. But with Rafael Diaz finally breaking through and becoming the starter when Adam Grinwis tore his ACL during the 2020 season, it seemed a bit strange to bring in another starting-caliber goalkeeper.

Of course, there’s always a chance that one of the players suffers a season-ending injury, which hopefully doesn’t happen, but I suppose you can never be too careful.

When asked about the goalkeeper situation moving into the 2021 season this week on the club’s debut episode of The Breakaway: Live this week, general manager Todd Dunivant spoke up both goalkeepers and didn’t really indicate which player, if either, has the upper hand in terms of being the starter.

“First of all, Rafa stepped up in a big way last year, and really grabbed that spot with both hands,” Dunivant said. “Adam had a tough injury and having [Rafa] come up like he did was huge. He’s been biding his time for a while and when the opportunity came, Rafa took it. I don’t know if people realize how big of a deal his national team gig was, but Dominican Republic playing a top European team like he did, posting a shutout, that’s a big deal. And his confidence is flying high and he’s only going to get better. So that’s huge for Rafa.

“And to be able to bring in Tomas, another proven No. 1 goalkeeper in this league, somebody who’s won Golden Glove a couple times, he’s had a ton of success. We feel really good about our two goalkeepers and it’s a great place to start,” Dunivant added.

Obviously Dunivant isn’t the coach, and while both Diaz and Gomez have done their share of playing the backup role in recent years, I don’t know if they expect to split time or just have a good old goalkeeper battle in preseason to figure out who starts.

However, I think there’s an additional factor at play, that Dunivant hinted at, that makes adding Gomez more sensible.

The Dominican Republic is not a soccer powerhouse. They are trying to revive their program, and calling up Diaz — born in DR but raised in New Jersey — was part of that effort.

After Diaz played very well in his debut, a friendly last month against Serbia in which he posted a shutout, I wonder if he will remain in the Dominican Republic national team’s plans moving forward.

The Dominican Republic are scheduled to play competitive games this year, in World Cup qualifying, as part of a five-team group stage with Panama, Barbados, Dominica and Anguilla. There’s games scheduled for March, which won’t affect Sac Republic because they won’t yet be in season, and for June, when they will be.

There’s a decent chance Diaz will be called up again, and while there are no games scheduled beyond that for Dominican Republic, perhaps he’ll be called up for future friendlies in 2021, too. And so, if Diaz becomes a regular call-up for DR, then I think the idea is Gomez will slot in at GK for Sac Republic, and hopefully there isn’t any drop-off between the two, like there might be if the club signs a less-experienced backup.

Of course, this is conjecture at this point, and we’ll have to see what happens. It’s not necessarily guaranteed Diaz will get called up again, since he only has one cap, but given the performance from his one appearance, I think there’s a good chance he gets another call-up or more this year. And if that’s the case, then having a plan in place on Republic FC’s part makes a heck of a lot of sense. Stay tuned if that’s how it plays out.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.