Preki and Warren Smith announce their goals to reach the MLS
Now that the surging tide of emotion has temporarily rolled back out to sea with the passing of Sacramento Soccer Day, it's time to realistically look at the proposition of Sacramento gaining a coveted spot in the MLS, and perhaps pump the brakes on the idea for the meantime.
Mr. Miyagi nailed it in the first "Karate Kid" movie when he told an over-eager Daniel Larusso, "First learn stand, then learn fly."
Sacramento Republic F.C. founder Warren Smith, head coach Preki, and at least 14,004 frenzied soccer fans should take Mr. Miyagi's advice to heart when calling out for their infant franchise to jump to Major League Soccer.
MLS 'may' come to Sacramento in time. But for now, we should simply be happy that some form of professional soccer is being played in the capital again.
Last Thursday night, Smith and Preki stood before a sold out Raley Field and whipped the masses into a frenzy over the idea of Sacramento's new team facing off against the L.A. Galaxy, Seattle Sounders and Columbus Crew on a weekly basis. There's only one small problem with that statement of intent - the team has yet to play a game in their assigned USL PRO league against the Rochester Rhinos, Charleston Battery or Wilmington Hammerheads.
I was as juiced as anyone by Preki standing on a flattened pitcher's mound and orchestrating his 14,000 troops to band together and march on the MLS like a modern-day William Wallace. I also understand that Smith is not going to motivate people to go out and watch a team with no prospect of ever playing at a major league level. It would be akin to asking a prospective employee to get fired up over an invitation to take a job with no chance of advancement or raise in pay.
However, is it not equally dangerous to build up that employee' s hopes of greater things down the road, only to see them lose their passion for the cause when those hopes are not realized.
There are many things that Sacramento would need to prove before the MLS brass would bend an ear to their call. Building a successful franchise that plays an attractive style of football, sustaining a loyal following, supporting and promoting the team in the local media, and (take a deep breath here) building a soccer-specific stadium downtown, are just four prerequisites the Republic would need to have on their resume when applying for the big leagues. Considering the team has yet to host a tryout, let alone play an actual match, calling out for the MLS could just be setting up fans for disappointment.
This is not to say Sacramento would not be good fit for the MLS. I personally believe, and have previously written that Sacramento would make a great pro soccer city.
STORY: MLS in Sacramento?
There are a huge number of soccer fans in the area (Thursday night's attendance served as evidence). There also isn't much competing with the Republic for attention outside of the Kings. Geographically, Sacramento makes an ideal location, with natural rivalries (or derbies) awaiting in San Jose, L.A. and even Portland. And perhaps most importantly, in Warren Smith, the team has an owner who is obviously willing to put in the the time and money necessary to make a real go of it.
Sacramento is indeed a solid soccer town, and it may be destined for the pinnacle of American professional soccer one day. But at present, Warren Smith, Preki and the emerging Republic fan base should embrace the fact that soccer is back in Sacramento and, per the inalienable wisdom of Mr. Miyagi, learn to stand in the USL before attempting to fly to the MLS.