Sacramento Republic FC Benefit from Intentionally Difficult Preseason
After losing in the second round of the USL Championship Playoffs this past fall, the Sacramento Republic FC have high expectations for the 2020 regular season. Hungry to secure their 2nd USL Title in the club’s history, Sacramento has worked tirelessly over the offseason, acquiring new talent, re-signing fan-favorites, and hiring new head coach Mark Briggs.
In January, while being introduced to the Sacramento media, Briggs expressed a desire for the club to play an exciting, up-tempo, attacking style of soccer that, he hopes, will result in both league success and an entertained fanbase. At the time, Briggs told KHTK he was anxious for training camp and preseason to begin, so he could get the process started.
Now, with just over a week until the regular season begins, Briggs is very pleased with how the preseason has gone for his new club.
“I’ve been extremely happy with the attitude, the application that’s shown on a day-to-day basis, and the intensity – something that I need in my system and with my philosophy. I think the intensity at this level is what people won’t be able to handle. I am really pleased with where they are at.”
Briggs’ style of play requires a lot of commitment and a high fitness level from his players, who have risen to the occasion from the start.
“They were told before they came into preseason that they had to reach a certain level of fitness. I had them do that because of my style, my philosophy, and because of the physical strain that my style puts on their bodies. So they had to be physically ready and I think as we have gotten into it we have gotten fitter and fitter. We’re not at one hundred percent, and that’s part of preseason, but we are trending in the right direction.”
Defender Matt Mahoney emphasized the importance of getting fit before the regular season begins and feels that everyone has performed at a high level.
“The way we want to play, it’s super important that we are all fit and healthy going in. I think we’re there, we had a tough preseason, as preseason should be, a lot of running along with playing, and I think that everyone came it fit, positive and ready to go.”
The rigorous training schedule hasn’t been the only challenge the Republic FC have faced over these past few weeks. The club intentionally scheduled exhibition matches against top competition, including MLS clubs Seattle Sounders and the San Jose Earthquakes.
“I think preseason is like – you have to be put in uncomfortable positions,” said Briggs, “So, for me, preseason is a waste of time playing against teams you are going to destroy. You get nothing out of it. So we’ve played Seattle, the MLS Champions, and we got a lot out of that. We’ve played San Jose, got a lot out of that. And a good game against Oakland…so it’s three competitive games”.
Midfielder Drew Skundrich added, “All those games were good tests for us. It was really cool to see where we stood compared to them. We did well vs Seattle, Reno and San Jose. But we can’t take those for granted and get complacent. We beat San Jose three to one, that’s incredible, but it was a preseason game so we have to take it up another level and keep that momentum going into the season”.
As if their preseason opposition wasn’t difficult enough already, Sacramento’s final tune-up game will be Saturday night against the defending USL Champions Real Monarchs SLC at Papa Murphy’s Park.
Mahoney shared that this match, even during preseason, has a little extra meaning to it, “The Monarchs last year in our last game beat us pretty badly going into playoffs, and I think, defending champs, everyone wants to prove we can compete with them, so I think it’s a really good challenge for our last (preseason) game”.
“They are obviously a great club, they have a lot of great coaches, they’ll bring a good team. It is part of our preseason but also we are a week away, so it’s important that we begin to fine tune as many of the details, as many of the things that we need to fine tune, in preparation for Tulsa on opening night,” said Briggs.
Unfortunately, Sacramento has suffered a couple of mild training injuries, including one to the returning Republic FC legend Rodrigo Lopez, who is expected to be out for Saturday’s match. However, Briggs boasted about the depth of his roster and the significant advantage that gives the club all season.
“I am extremely pleased. I think we have good depth in every position. We’ve got good balance in every position. We have a number of players that can play (multiple) positions. Unfortunately, we have had some injuries but that’s part of the process, that’s part of what we do and we expected to have those injuries and we just have to deal with them, move on, keep the group in positive spirits and put the best product on the field that we have available at that point in time.”
Sacramento’s final preseason match against the Real Monarchs SLC is Saturday night with kickoff scheduled for 6:00 PM. The Republic FC will open up their regular season the following Saturday, March 7th, against FC Tulsa.