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USL notes: Sacramento signs former Cincinnati captain, EPL defender

Jun 20, 2018; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Sacramento Republic FC midfielder Villyan Bijev (20) celebrates with his team after a goal against Los Angeles FC during the second half at Banc of California Stadium. (Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports)

Sacramento Republic FC added some depth to its defense on Saturday ahead of the upcoming United Soccer League Championship season.

The California-based club announced it signed Dekel Keinan to a contract for the 2019 season. The deal, which is pending league and federation approval, also has a club option for 2020.

Keinan, 34, most recently played for FC Cincinnati, where he wore the captain’s armband. In Cincinnati’s final USL season, Keinan played in 22 matches and scored twice. Cincinnati won the USL’s regular season title with Keinan’s help on the back line.

“Dekel’s resume speaks for itself,” Sacramento general manager Todd Dunivant said in a statement. “He has played at the highest level and will bring invaluable leadership to our team both on the field and off. His gritty mentality is a welcome addition that prioritizes defending and keeping the ball out of the net.”

A native of Israel, Keinan began his career with Maccabi Haifa, a club in his native country. After coming up in its youth academy, Keinan played for Maccabi Haifa’s first team from 2002 to 2010, and again from 2012 to 2017. In 365 appearances with the club across all contests, he scored 24 goals. Keinan helped the club reach the group stage of the UEFA Champions League in the 2009-10 season.

Between stints at Maccabi Haifa, the 6-foot-1 defender played in England with Blackpool, Cardiff City, Crystal Palace and Bristol City. Keinan played in 37 games in England, scoring twice.

Keinan also has 27 caps for the Israeli national team, 10 of which came in World Cup qualifying matches.

Sacramento will open its season at home on March 9, taking on Real Monarchs.

USL Notes

  • Phoenix Rising FC announced the signing of midfielder Joey Calistri on Friday. Calistri, 25, came up in the Chicago Fire’s academy and signed a homegrown deal with them, making 14 appearances with the club in 2016. The Northwestern product spent last season with Saint Louis FC, scoring five times in 32 appearances.
  • ATL UTD 2, the USL Championship affiliate of the MLS Cup champions, signed academy product Jackson Conway to a professional contract last week. Conway, 17, is the third Atlanta United academy player to sign with USL and the eighth to sign a pro contract. The Leeds, England native made 11 appearances with ATL UTD 2 last season.
  • Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC announced Friday it had re-signed Guam international Shane Malcolm to a new contract and had exercised contract options on midfielder Saeed Robinson and defender Jamal Jack ahead of the 2019 USL Championship season. Malcolm tallied five goals and six assists for the Switchbacks last season. Robinson scored five goals last year and Jack was fifth in USL in clearances in 2018, registering 191.
  • Manny Perez, a North Carolina FC academy product, will sign with Scottish Premier League side Celtic FC when the January transfer window opens, according to reports from multiple outlets. A 19-year-old fullback, Perez just finished his sophomore season at NC State and has spent the past few weeks on trial with Celtic. Perez has represented the U.S. national team at the U-20 level. He declined to enter the MLS SuperDraft after his freshman season at NC State and spent last summer playing with the NPSL’s Asheville City SC.

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