After speaking numerous times about hoping to line up a preseason friendly against a Latin American opponent, the Seattle Sounders will instead pay a visit to the USL’s Sacramento Republic. The Feb. 15 match comes a week before the Sounders will visit El Salvador’s Santa Tecla in the CONCACAF Champions League.
“As we build toward a rigorous season that begins with CONCACAF Champions League action in just a matter of weeks, we’re excited to add a quality opponent in Sacramento Republic FC to our preseason schedule,” Sounders General Manager & President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey said in a team release. “Our players will experience a strong atmosphere in Sacramento in front of their passionate fans, and playing a quality USL side is valuable to our overall preparations for the 2018 campaign.”
Despite Lagerwey’s statement, this is far from the preferred warmup for the Sounders’ first competitive match of the season. While the Republic have one of the best atmospheres in the USL, they are still a lower-division opponent and will be even earlier in their preseason than the Sounders. The Republic don’t start their regular-season until March 17.
The Sounders were supposedly close to securing a home match against a Latin American opponent, but visa issues scuttled the deal at the last minute.
As far as USL opponents go, though, the Republic are at least coming off a season in which they qualified for the playoffs and advanced to the Western Conference semifinals. The game will also have the subtext of marking Preki’s return to Sacramento, after he abruptly left in July 2015 to pursue a coaching opportunity overseas that never materialized. Although Preki coached Saint Louis FC in the USL last season, they never faced Sacramento as members of the Eastern Conference.