By NICHOLAS MURRAY – firstname.lastname@example.org
Thursday, March 17, 2016
It’s been an offseason of change for Sacramento Republic FC, with numerous new faces arriving at the club as it enters its third season in the USL looking to maintain the high standards set by former standouts like Rodrigo Lopez.
For Irish forward Tommy Stewart, who has been with the club throughout its history, the players who will be asked to continue the club’s success have all the ingredients to bring continued success to Bonney Field.
“There are new faces, but everyone who has come in has done a great job so far,” Stewart said. “The team is going to be a hard team to pick for the manager, which is great. That’s what you want, good competition for places. Honestly, since Day 1 everyone has come in and shown a real hunger to do well, and that’s all you can ask.”
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Stewart has been a key figure for Sacramento in its first two seasons, leading the team with 11 goals in its inaugural season before an injury-hit season saw him add three more last year. The 29-year-old is looking to provide solid production this season, but is more concerned in making sure the team takes victories over any personal goals.
“It’s all about the team, and if the team wins, great,” Stewart said. “I don’t care if I don’t score, as long as we win the game. That’s the main thing, and as long as I’ve done my job in the pits to help my teammates win, that’s all that matters.
“Obviously goals help that – goals win games – but it doesn’t matter who scores on the day. It’s about picking up the three points. If we want to challenge for the championship, or whatever it may be, we’ve got to all chip in and make sure we’re consistent this year.”
With a view to bringing the club close together, Sacramento made a trip to Mexico early this preseason where the players engaged in heavy training on the field, and the chance to bond away from it. Stewart said while it was tough at times, it was a worthwhile time to help the team come together as quickly as possible.
It also provided the opportunity for Coach Paul Buckle to instill what he’s looking for in his first preseason with the club. After being appointed as a mid-season successor to Preki in 2015, Stewart said the players have taken to Buckle’s methods and the approach he brings to the game.
“Everyone is eager to play for him,” Stewart said. “He’s kept everyone on their toes. I think most of the lads have played the same amount of minutes in preseason, so everyone’s getting a fair chance. … There’s a genuine talent within the team, but we can still do better and hopefully now we’ll get that from Paul and within the group.”
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While there are a lot of new faces within the squad, Stewart is excited to see the familiar faces at Bonney Field this season. With Republic FC having set USL attendance records each of the past two years, Stewart has been thrilled with the way the club has been embraced by its fans both at games and in the community.
“They come out in their numbers every week, so it’s special for the players to see how much the people have responded to it,” Stewart said. “Every year there’s been something different, or something’s happened to help the club grow. I’m just enjoying it and I’m enjoying my football, and I’m happy to be in Sacramento. Hopefully I have a good year ahead of me.”
With a visit to Seattle Sounders FC 2 awaiting on the opening weekend of the season, Stewart is looking forward to showing what he and his teammates can do.“Everyone’s really looking forward to the first game, because it’s been a few months since we last played a competitive game, so genuinely there’s just excitement. The boys want to get out,” Stewart said. “It would have been nice to play the first game at home, but it doesn’t really matter. We just want to get out there and have a good season, take each game as it comes and show the fans and the coaching staff and the players around us that we’re a good team and we can compete and do well.”