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Republic FC Academy players sign National Letters of Intent on Signing Day

By Eira Castillo, 02/02/17, 11:45AM PST

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Nine players sign to play collegiately post-Academy

Nine Republic FC Academy players signed letters of intent on Wednesday. This year’s Academy commits signed with universities across California as well as two out-of-state programs.

Goalkeepers Cameron Douglas and Armando Conover will be attending UCLA and Menlo College, respectively. Defender Seamus McLaughlin, Omari Fontes and Diego Villapudua will continue their soccer careers at the University of San Francisco, UC Santa Barbara and University of the Pacific. Midfielder Keegan Ness committed to Oregon State University, while fellow midfielder Leopoldo Hernandez will play collegiately at CSU Northridge. Francis Avoce and Younes Dayekh, both forwards, committed to Loyola Marymount University and Bradley University, respectively.

“It’s exciting to get to this day. Obviously college soccer is a lot different than Academy play, but I hope what I’ve learned here I can bring into my college game,” said Ness. “It will definitely be different but I’m excited for this next step.”

Going on to play collegiately marks more than just the beginning of a new chapter in their athletic career for these players. Playing collegiate soccer gives them the opportunity to pursue a college education and reach other milestones outside of athletic achievements.

“I’m the first one in my family to go to a four-year school here in the United States,” said Dayekh. “The journey that I’ve gone through to get to this point has been surreal and exciting, including getting to play in the Academy. This chapter is coming to an end but at the same time, I get to start a new one right away.”

“My mom and dad always taught me that you always need an education,” added Fontes. “You never know when you could get hurt while playing. It’s great that I can continue to play while also pursuing my degree.”                              

While the current crop of Republic FC U-18s have been with the program for two years now, most if not all the current have come up through various area youth clubs. Davis Legacy (Avoce) Placer United (Douglas and Ness), San Juan Soccer Academy (Fontes and McLaughlin), Impact Soccer Club (Dayekh), Sacramento United (Conover), Real Sacramento FC (Hernandez) and Stockton Monarcas 98 (Villapudua) are all represented in the 2017 Academy commitments.

These same clubs, as well as other area clubs like FC Elk Grove, also produce dozens of players that go on to play at various D1 programs across the country.

Former Republic FC Academy U-18 members and current Placer United players Omar Oseguera and Ivan Oseguera will join Sacramento State men’s soccer program in the fall. Sacramento United player Lucas Churchill, who played with Republic FC’s U-16s last season, has committed to Cal.

“The success of our Signing Day is not only due to the hard work of the Republic FC Academy coaches and staff but also the clubs that these players spent their formative years in, Stockton Monarcas, Sacramento United, Placer United, San Juan, Davis Legacy, Impact Soccer Club and Real Sacramento,” said Republic FC Academy U-18 Coach Benjamin Ziemer. “Those clubs put in a lot of time and energy and they deserve to be recognized alongside our Academy program.”

The number of players from the Sacramento-area that have gone on to play professionally continues to grow. This past month, Jesuit High School graduate and Sacramento native Niko Hansen was drafted in the first round of the 2017 MLS SuperDraft by Columbus Crew, where fellow Jesuit grad and former Republic FC loan player Adam Jahn currently plays.

Ultimately, Republic FC hope to produce homegrown players through the Academy that will play for the club’s first team and the U.S. National Team. Just two seasons in, part of this goal is already being fulfilled, with nine players having been called up to various ranks of the U.S. Youth National team, including Douglas who was called up to the U.S. Men’s U-18s in 2016.

This is also the second group of Republic FC players that will move one from the Academy to collegiate programs. Last year, eight Republic FC Academy U-18s graduated from the program and went on to play at various D-1 programs across the state. 

“It means everything to sign for UCLA. I chose the school because they play a great style of football,” said Douglas. “I don’t think any other system would prepare me quite as well as the Academy has, especially for college soccer. I believe Republic FC has taken my game to the highest level possible and when I join my college team I’ll be ready.”

The Academy has progressed incredibly fast for such a young program. Republic FC’s Academy was announced in March of 2015. In the first season, the U-15/6s and the U-17/18s both reached the knockout round of U.S. Development Academy playoffs. The U-17/18s went on to the Quarterfinals after winning their group, which included the standout New York Red Bulls Academy U-17/18s.

“I’ve been looking to this moment for a long time. I’ve been committed for over a year and I’m really excited to start the next part of my career at the University of San Francisco. I couldn’t have done it without the help of the coaches here at Republic FC.”

Congratulations to all of our Academy commits and also to all of the area players who have signed their own letters of intent this week!