Sacramento, Calif. – Earlier today, Sacramento Republic FC announced the addition of three players from the club’s development academy to the first-team roster. Defender Ermias Yohannes, midfielder Blake Willey, and forward Ethan Kelly have all signed USL Academy Contracts, making them eligible to join Republic FC’s first team roster pending league and federation approval. All are members of Republic FC’s U-17 Academy squad.
“Our youth academy continues to be the best in the region at developing talented players and preparing them for the next level,” said Republic FC President and General Manager Todd Dunivant. “Signing Ermias, Blake, and Ethan to Academy contracts shows the strength of our youth system.”
“Our academy continues to provide unique opportunities to its players no other club can,” said Republic FC Academy Director Eder Quintanilla. “Ermias, Ethan, and Blake all have a bright future ahead of them and have earned this opportunity with the first team.”
All three players featured for Sacramento-based youth soccer clubs – Willey at Sacramento United, Yohannes at San Juan Soccer Club, and Kelly at FC Sporting – before moving into Republic FC’s youth development academy preparing players for elite competition including professional training and matches.
A Sacramento native, Willey joined the club’s Youth Development Academy in 2017. He has tallied 16 appearances and over 1,300 minutes for the Academy’s U-17 squad this season, scoring one goal. He was voted the team MVP of Sacramento’s U-15 side for the 2021-22 Academy season when his squad advanced to the semifinals of MLS NEXT Cup – the only non-MLS club to reach that phase of the tournament. In 2022, he earned two call-ups to the United States U-16 Youth National Team and was the only player representing a USL Championship club on each roster.
Yohannes signs an academy contract after earning an opportunity in first-team training camp, where he featured in preseason friendlies against USL Championship and League One clubs Monterey Bay F.C., Central Valley Fuego FC, and Oakland Roots SC. A Sacramento native, the defender has appeared in 17 matches for the Academy U-17’s this season, leading his squad with over 1,500 minutes and scoring three times. He joined Republic FC’s academy in 2017.
Kelly joined Republic FC’s Academy in 2017. The forward has been a strong contributor for the club’s U-17 side for two seasons. Along the way, he has helped his squad reach MLS NEXT Cup playoffs in back-to-back years. In 2022-23, Kelly has appeared in eight games, co-leading his team with eight goals across 500 minutes logged.
USL Academy contracts allow academy players the chance to train and compete with the first team in professional matches while retaining their NCAA eligibility. Since its inception in 2015, Republic FC’s Academy has created a strong local pipeline of youth players ready for professional level competition. Including Kelly, Willey, and Yohannes, 33 elite youth players have earned the opportunity to join the first team on a USL Academy Contracts. In 2022, current and former Academy players logged nearly 1,000 first-team minutes and were selected to the club’s matchday roster 49 times in USL Championship and U.S. Open Cup matches. 20 academy players developed locally have moved into the pro ranks, including six at MLS clubs and their affiliates.
Pending league and federation approval, all three players on USL Academy contracts will be available for selection for the club’s U.S. Open Cup match on Wednesday at Heart Health Park. Kickoff is set for 7:00 p.m., and tickets are available at SacRepublicFC.com/tickets.