Republic Stoppage Time: Paul Buckle Hates Time Wasting, Gift Giving
Before we begin, if you haven't seen Tommy Thompson juggle during warm-ups, you're missing out. Obviously, Thompson isn't as good at soccer as Steph Curry is at basketball (yet), but the same "go watch him warm up" principle applies.
There may be no better American juggler than Thompson, who blasts the ball 100 feet straight up into the air, only to cushion the it back down on his foot and take his next touch just three or
four feet in the air.
Of course, in the photo I actually ended up snapping of him, the ball did get away, touching the ground as the diminutive playmaker lunged in vain. But hey, even Steph Curry misses shots. Before the slip-up, Thompson had been juggling continuously for what seemed like three minutes. Next time, I'll break out the stop watch to make this official.
Coming in to Wednesday's game against Real Monarchs SLC, the Republic had never beaten the Utah side before, going 0-1-3 in 2014 with just three total goals. Sacramento added just one more tally Wednesday, but Adam Jahn's strike was enough to see the home side through to a 1-0 victory.
As always, you can read my gamer here.
There's no real way of sugarcoating the following: the previous four Republic - Monarchs match-ups featured objectively boring soccer. Part of the reason for the lack of entertainment was the blueprint that most teams have adopted to beat or tie the Republic at Bonney: bunker and counter.
I don't want to sound like a homer with the next few statements because in spite of how many times I'm accused on Twitter of being a Republic fan, I'm not. That being said, Real Monarchs SLC took the blueprint strategy to the next level last year, wasting time early and often at Bonney.
I actually don't really have a problem with this in principle -- I believe every team should use the best possible strategy to get whatever result is desired. The best strategy for the Monarchs is apparently to slow down the pace of the game, bleed the clock, and hope to catch Sacramento with a fortuitous goal. That's fine.
But in practice, it just contributes to the lack of interesting events that have defined Sacramento's season through 11 games in 2016. True, the Monarchs may have been tired -- Wednesday marked their fourth road game in 14 days -- but the Republic have actually played one more game in the same time period.
Regardless, the SLC players hit the ground early and often to the point where one former member of the Republic organization texted me during the game that "The Monarchs players are barely even walking."
Republic fans were no doubt relieved then when the pace of the game picked up after Jahn's 47th minute goal. Head coach Paul Buckle certainly was.
"I have to say, they're wasting time from minute one," Buckle said after the match. "I have no use for it. It's not for me. There's no place for it in the game. It must be boring for the fans to see their players going down, the goalkeeper taking an age to get the ball, but the key for us was to remain patient, and I think we did."
"It seemed to me anyway that towards the end of the game, especially with Octavio [Guzman] and Harry Williams down in the corner over there, you had a very professional way of closing out the game, probably one of the best ones," Beeman began before Buckle cut him off with one of the better sound bites he's delivered recently.
"Well do you remember last season against [the Monarchs]?" Buckle asked, again referring to the time wasting. "I do. I remember it clearly. I didn't want that again, no. If I have that again, then we're not doing the right thing. We're professionals. Teams come and do it to us all the time, we've said it from minute one...so yeah, we're professional.
"It was nice to see them wound up and angry and looking to get a bit of urgency."
That professionalism was Guzman and Williams putting on a clinic of, well, time wasting. The pair expertly held the ball in the corner to kill the game in the last five minutes or so plus stoppage time.
The above image depicts the pair in the late stages of the game. Three Monarchs defenders come over to try to win the ball as no Republic players would make runs in the box that late in the game with the lead.
Guzman isn't thinking about putting the ball in play here, he's signaling to the referee that the SLC defenders aren't actually 10 yards away from the corner kick, and thus he shouldn't have to take it. The referee vindicated his complaint, pushing back the players to the 10-yard dash visible just to the left of the defender on the end line.
The play is so simple, but it's so genius. Everyone else on the Republic gets a rest while Guzman and Williams shield off three opposing players. If I recall correctly, the pair earned three corner kicks in this sequence, wasting almost two minutes.
Guzman's play in particular was so impressive that ESPN3 play-by-play announcer Mike Watts referred to him as "The Human Rain Delay." Much of the last 10 or so minutes of the game was spent in situations like this, leading color commentator David Gass to comment on the situation in stoppage time when the Monarchs finally did get the ball out of their own half.
"This is impressive to watch," Gass said. "Real Monarchs haven't been able to get the ball in the offensive half of the field throughout most of these last few minutes and stoppage time. Credit to the Republic for expertly seeing out this game."
So Buckle hates time wasting, but like most things in sports, you only really hate them when they're going against you.
No gifts before Christmas
Another thing Buckle hates: gifting goals to the opposition. The Republic center backs have as of late been guilty in giving away possession in the defensive third of the field in close games. More often than not, this has led to goals against Sacramento, with Derek Foran, Chris Christian, and Mike da Fonte all making mistakes in the last few weeks.
The joke around the "press box" has been as to when in the press conference Buckle would mention the word "gift" or "gifting" to explain the outcome of the match. After the first mistake-free home match in at least the last month, I decided to ask Buckle about it.
"No gifts tonight, right?" I asked.
"No gifts, which is why I'm here nice and early for you lot," Buckle said to wide laughter. Starting this season, Buckle has frequently lingered in the locker room before meeting the press. Tangent: according to Republic vice president of communications Erika Bjork, this never happened with Preki because Preki didn't actually give post-game speeches. Well then.
Anyway, Buckle continued: "When there's gifts this early, before Christmas, I'm not happy."
Providing the most recent "gift" was Derek Foran, who was caught in possession last Saturday against LA Galaxy II, resulting in an easy Jose Villarreal goal. Though that was just the sixth goal the Republic allowed in the season, Buckle publicly called out Foran after that match.
After some speculation from the fans and press though, Foran was back in the starting lineup Wednesday, but pulled at the halftime break for Mike da Fonte. While some may have wondered if the substitution was due to Foran's play, Buckle confirmed in the conference that Foran suffered a hip injury.
"I was proud of his performance," Buckle said of Foran. "Of course, there was a decision for me to make after [his] error at the weekend. But he's having a great season, Derek. He's made two errors at the back and he's been punished. One [in a 1-0 loss at Portland Timbers 2] and one last week. I thought he was very accomplished in his performance."
Some around the Republic have questioned Buckle's public criticisms in press conferences, like the one above. "That fucking guy throws numerous players under the bus," one Republic employee told me the day after the LA Galaxy II loss. "He owns none of it from what I can tell. So much for there being no individuals on this club, only the crest.
"Apparently he doesn't feel the same way about the about the negatives of the game," they continued. "True, [there were some] dumb mistakes last night, but still. Have your guy's back. Take the fucking bullet every now and then. It goes an incredibly long way with folks."
Though he wasn't asked about any of the above comments, Buckle addressed his philosophy of criticism after the match. "The good thing is that [the players have] been able to take criticism because I did criticize them after last week because I thought we should have beat LA," Buckle said. "They've taken it on board and that's part of being a professional. If you can take constructive criticism and then put it into the next game and put it right, then you know you've got a real chance.
"We haven't got any sulkers, anyone thinking they know better. We're very honest and I think we showed that in our performance tonight."
Fans will have a chance to see Buckle's non-sulkers again in action Saturday in Reno in a rematch against the Monarchs. The brass at Reno 1868 FC are hosting that match in preparation for their club's entry into the USL the next year. If there's again time wasting, you can always leave and walk two blocks to a casino for actual entertainment.
While I'm still trying to figure out an actual format for this column, I'm going to experiment with some ending notes today.
The above image depicts (along with The Sacramento Bee's Bill Patterson and Republic photographer Brett Berry) the sunset behind the monorail and the second Bonney Field video replay board. This is the view from the "press box," where our field-level, corner view makes it impossible to see anything on the other side of the field. We joke that it's good that nothing ever happens in the first half of Republic games because then we won't miss any goals on the other side of the field. That being said, the reporters spend about half the time in the first half turned with their backs to the field in order to watch the video board rather than live action. The joys of lower division soccer.
16: the number of goals that have been scored in Republic games this year, 10 for and six against. Coincidentally, 16 is also the number that you want your blackjack dealer to deal themselves this weekend when you travel to Reno. Remember, always split Aces and 8's.
Pro Sports Talks' Pat McIntosh asked the question of the night after the game to Adam Jahn. "After you play like this, how much better are the Republic than the Earthquakes?" McIntosh deadpanned. We all laughed, while Jahn leaned into McIntosh's mic and offered up a simple "no comment." Jahn and Tommy Thompson headed back to their parent club in the San Jose Earthquakes after the match.
I reported Wednesday that the Republic were in talks recently with former player Mickey Daly, a two-year starter at center back. While details are vague, it appears as if any possible deal fell apart when the two sides couldn't agree to terms despite the mutual interest. Daly has played 10 games for Bethlehem Steel in 2016 since leaving the Republic in the last offseason.
That's all from last night. Again, very interested in feedback for this column. Hit up the "contact" button on the top of this page to drop me a line.