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Training Camp Roster Preview - Midfielders

By William Strome, 02/01/20, 9:00AM PST

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Part three of our SRFC roster preview takes a look at the midfield unit heading into the 2020 season...

The Republic FC midfield situation is an exciting combination of speed, strength, creativity and grit. Most importantly, it’s a mix of players who are proven winners, at both the professional and collegiate level.

On the attacking front, the boys in Old Glory Red have a high-class problem on their hands with a slew of talented returning playmakers including Sam Werner, Villyan Bijev, and Dariusz Formella battling for minutes in the midfield.

Collectively, the wingers tallied 10 goals and nine assists this past season, while creating 97 total scoring chances during league play. The attacking trio also netted five game-winning goals last year across all competitions including Formella’s back-to-back game-winners in the heart of SRFC’s pivotal postseason push. 

Werner finished his first season with the Indomitable Club having supplied 230 crosses during league play which was good enough for third in all of the USL. The three-time National Champion at Stanford also finished the 2019 season with the second-most assists on the team during league play (5). 

Another veteran eying a spot in the starting XI is newly signed attacking threat Kharlton Belmar, who joins the Indomitable Club from Nashville SC. Belmar adds tremendous pace from the flanks and has a lethal shot at his disposal that earned him 2015 Rookie of the Year honors. His versatility allows Belmar to line up as a winger or even a true forward, either way, he'll be an exciting attacking option for the boys in Old Glory Red this upcoming campaign. 

Midfielders Jaime Villarreal and Drew Skundrich return to the central part of the pitch where the two started 24 of 37 USL matches together (postseason included). The duo combined for over 5,000 minutes during league play, 64 interceptions, 107 tackles, 69 tackles won, and collected nine shutouts when paired on the field together. When paired together in 2019, Villarreal and Skundrich registered nine shutouts and posted a record of 11-8-5 over 24 matches. 

Villarreal lead the entire squad in minutes played and starts last season. He also contributed two goals in 2019, both of which were game winning strikes. 

Adding to that central midfield depth will be the tenacious Andrew Wheeler-Omiunu who will be a formidable force as a holding midfielder. Wheeler-Omiunu joins the Indomitable Club from Arizona where he split last season between FC Tucson of USL League One before earning a call up to Phoenix Rising FC where he made six appearances for the record-breaking USL club. Wheeler-Omiunu, who was a member of the 2018 MLS Cup Champion Atlanta United team, was a two-time League One Team of the Week selection before Rising FC requested his services. 

Another new acquisition to the SRFC midfield is the return of club legend, Rodrigo Lopez. RoRo, who reunites with Republic FC after pursuing his dream of playing in Mexico’s top division, has recently been playing as a box-to-box holding midfielder and will be a valuable asset during his second stint with Sacramento. His leadership, creativity and clinical quality on set pieces will be a welcomed addition to the midfield unit.  

Joining the versatile attacking front for Republic FC this coming season will be local standout Mario Penagos who recently signed his first professional contract with the Indomitable Club. Penagos, a native of Elk Grove, CA, has been an available substitute in 11 USL matches, dating back to 2018, and started a pair of international friendlies with the first team this past season. With over 120 academy appearances under his belt, over 100 starts in academy play and 54 career goals, Penagos looks ready and hungry for first team opportunities. 

Another product of the Republic FC Academy is midfielder Julian Chavez who earned an invite to training camp with the first team. Unlike Penagos, Chavez has not signed a professional contract but having been invited to camp speaks volumes as to what the coaches see in the talented youngster. Whether or not Chavez makes the 2020 first team, there’s no doubt he has a bright future in an Old Glory Red kit.  

Can't wait for the home opener against FC Tulsa on March 7? Secure your spot for the first regular season match by selecting a full or partial-season plan today– starting at just 5 matches. Not only will you lock in tickets for the 2020 USL Championship season, but you’ll also receive the full slate of Republic FC membership benefits and MLS priority access for the 2022 season. 

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