Sacramento Republic FC, the Rapids’ next opponents along their preseason trail, are a young club that has made swift progress since entering the United Soccer League just two years ago.
The club was founded as recently as 2012, and played their first competitive match on March 29, 2014, under the guidance of former US, Everton and Kansas City Wizards midfielder Preki.
Their first home match, against Harrisburg City Islanders on April 26, resulted in a 2-1 loss but played out in front of a USL PRO regular season attendance record 20,231 spectators. Playing in that game for the Islanders was Yann Ekra, who has been on trial with the Rapids and opened the scoring last week in the 4-2 win over Korean club side Seongnam FC.
Sacramento would ultimately avenge that home-opener defeat to Harrisburg City Islanders, as they toppled the side from Pennsylvania 2-0 to claim the USL PRO Championship in their inaugural season.
That first home match for Sacramento was staged at Hughes Stadium. This Saturday’s encounter (6:00 p.m MT) will be at Bonney Field, which opened on Friday, June 20, 2014 with a match against Colorado Rapids Reserves. Sacramento triumphed 4-3 on that occasion, in front of a sell-out crowd.
Though 2015 was not so successful, the club has continued to grow in popularity. They averaged crowds of 11,293 for 2014 - a USL PRO record - and bettered that number in 2015, to 11,329.
Not satisfied with their lot, despite the success on the field, Sacramento Republic harbors lofty ambitions, and have their sights seriously set on becoming a MLS franchise.
According to Republic FC's website: ‘Plans for a new, privately financed stadium are on track, pending Sacramento securing MLS-rights, with the facility ready to open as soon as the 2018 MLS season.’
This would be dependent on other expansion candidates failing to cement solid plans for a stadium, and yet highlights the yearning of California’s state capital to house a franchise within North America's top soccer league.
Preki is no longer the head coach with Sacramento Republic FC. He stepped down in July, 2015 and was replaced by Paul Buckle who, as a player, had a lengthy career in the lower leagues in England. He then stepped into management, with roles at Torquay United, Bristol Rovers, Luton Town and Cheltenham Town.
The Sacramento squad still includes striker Thomas Stewart, who was top scorer (11) in the inaugural campaign, though they are without last season’s leading light Rodrigo López.
This will be Republic FC’s first preseason friendly of 2016. Their USL campaign opens at Seattle Sounders FC 2 on March 25. For the Rapids, this will be the first ‘official’ preseason encounter, though they have enjoyed victories over Seongnam FC and Orange County Blues in scrimmages during their stay in San Diego. Sacramento, meanwhile, have been preparing for their new season in the Mexican beach resort of Mazatlán.
From Sacramento, the Rapids head to Tucson to compete in the Desert Diamond Cup, where they will play four matches in ten days, including at least two against MLS rivals. (SCHEDULE)
The Rapids return to Colorado on February 28, and their MLS season opens the following Sunday, at San Jose Earthquakes, kickoff 1:00 p.m MT. The Home Opener is on Saturday, March 12 against LA Galaxy, with a start time of 5:00 p.m MT. For tickets, click HERE, or call 303-825-GOAL.