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Citrus Heights Messenger

Interview with USL Head Coach Mark Briggs

Mar 05, 2024 11:37AM ● By Mitch Barber
Sacramento Republic FC Head Coach Mark Briggs. Photo courtesy of Sacramento Republic FC

SACRAMENTO, CA (MPG) - Mark Briggs has a clear mission for the 2024 United Soccer League (USL) season, Republic FC’s 11th. He told the Messenger Publishing Group that “it is to go one step further than last year and win the championship. Pretty simple, I think, after where we got to last year and reaching the conference final. We gotta go one step further this year and try and be better than what we were.”

Sacramento Republic FC match

Sacramento Republic FC huddles before a match. Photo courtesy of Sacramento Republic FC

The club won its only USL championship in 2014.

The Tower Bridge Battalion has been cheering since then.

Briggs said of them, “I think they’re like a 12th person on our team. They give us extra energy when we’re in difficult moments. They make us run those extra five yards when we’re tired. I can’t speak highly enough of the Tower Bridge Battalion. I think they’re incredible and we’re proud to have them as our supporters’ group.”

Republic FC fans stadium

Fans watch a Sacramento Republic FC game on a sunny day at Heart Health Park. Photo courtesy of Sacramento Republic FC

The Tower Bridge Battalion will support numerous players this season who made their way through the Republic FC Academy, such as forward Rafael Jauregui, the youngest goal scorer in club history; forward Da’vian Kimbrough, who just turned 14 and signed with the club at 13 becoming the youngest pro in U.S. team sports history; midfielder Blake Willey who grew up in the Pocket area; and 16-year-old central defender Chibuike “Chibi” Ukaegbu.

Chibuike Chibi Ukaegbu Sacramento Republic FC

Defender Chibuike “Chibi” Ukaegbu prepares to make a pass. Photo courtesy of Sacramento Republic FC

Blake Willey Republic FC

Midfielder Blake Willey advances the ball during practice. Photo courtesy of Sacramento Republic FC

Rafael Jauregui forward

Forward Rafael Jauregui prepares to kick the ball. Photo courtesy of Sacramento Republic FC

Briggs also started his own career at an early age in England. When asked about pickup soccer there, he said, “It’s a huge thing. You drive past every park and there’s people going on [the pitch] and, it was for me every single day growing up, soon as I finished school, there would be 20, 30 of us at the park just playing. I think it’s where the game over here…You don’t get that in America. I think you can go anywhere else in the rest of the world, England, Italy, Brazil, Argentina, like there’s always just people playing, you know? Of course, you don’t need anything — just a ball. [If] you can’t find a goalpost, use trees, use whatever it is, you can just play and I think that’s what I’d like to see happening a little bit more over here in America.”

And then there’s veteran midfielder Rodrigo Lopez, who was on Republic FC’s 2014 championship team, winning MVP honors in the final. He’s from Guadalajara, Mexico, another country with quite the pickup soccer scene.

USL soccer is a different level of soccer. Coach Briggs said of Republic FC, “You have professional players, a professional team of the highest caliber there has ever been in Sacramento. I think the reason to come out and support your local club [is] first and foremost, but also you have top top players that are in this league, and I think a lot of people still have the perception that it’s semi-professional, and it’s not semi-professional; it’s fully-professional. If you have a kid that likes soccer, there’s no better learning tool than watching a professional live.”

What does Briggs do when he isn’t coaching elite soccer?

“I’m usually with the family: my wife, my kids, my dog. Usually walking around parks or playing with the kids,” the coach said. “Every now and then, I pick up a pickleball racket or tennis racket. Sometimes a golf club and the majority of the time’s with the kids and with my wife.”

Briggs is comfortable in Sacramento. He said of the city, “It’s not flashy — you know the glitz and glamour of your L.A.’s and San Diego’s. It’s humble people that work hard and enjoy life and I certainly feel at home here.”

Let’s see if he and the team can bring Sacramento another championship in 2024.

The Indomitable Club will open their season on March 9 against Orange County SC at Heart Health Park, 1600 Exposition Blvd., Sacramento. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

Martin Vasquez Sacramento Republic FC practice

Assistant Coach Martin Vásquez gives instruction on the pitch during a Sacramento Republic FC practice. Photo courtesy of Sacramento Republic FC