Since its inception in 2015, the Republic FC youth Academy’s primary focus has always been helping players develop, mature and grow and over these last few months, the fruits of a handful of promising young players’ labors are becoming apparent at the professional level.
This past weekend, one player took a giant leap in his professional career by stepping onto the pitch at Providence Park in Portland for the first time in a competitive league match. This season, he was the fourth SRFC Academy graduate to grace the field in a USL Championship game.
Midfielder Julian Chavez has committed himself to growing his game in the Republic FC Academy system and by having a tireless hunger to always improve day in and day out, the midfielder was handsomely rewarded with his first career first team appearance with the Indomitable Club during league play this past Saturday.
In the 83rd minute, Sam Werner exited the match for JuJu – a Sacramento native – as the talented teenager stepped onto the pitch in a first team game at the USL Championship level. In seven minutes of game time, Chavez had two touches, completed two passes, and finished the night with a pristine passing percentage of 100%.
Like it is for all Academy graduates who get the chance to compete in a first team match, it was both a dream come true for Chavez and the very beginning of a new chapter in his journey as a pro.
It was also a moment he will never forget.
“When I heard my name, my heart dropped,” JuJu said. “There were a lot of nerves and butterflies, but I was ready. That was everything I worked for in my whole life. I was ready and I was excited.”
Not only was he ready and excited on the inside, but Chavez looked calm, poised and comfortable on the field on the outside as well. The midfielder carries himself like a true professional which says a lot about the importance of character in the Republic FC Academy family – as he’s already focused on the upcoming business trip to Reno on Wednesday instead of celebrating his milestone.
“It was a quick celebration and we got the win, so that was big,” the 18-year-old said. “Now we have to turn around and focus on our next game, so it was a quick celebration with family, but the team is already focused on that next game and we’re ready to get that next win. We want three more points.”
Chavez isn’t alone when it comes to players rising through the academy ranks and joining the USL first team. On March 7 against FC Tulsa, SRFC Academy products Mario Penagos and Hayden Sargis earned their first career starts during Championship play and Sargis has since played every single minute of the season thus far.
Rafael Jauregui – the youngest player to feature in a league match for SRFC at 15 years old – has made two appearances in 2020 for the Indomitable Club after an impressive run in the Academy system where Rafa was regularly competing in older age groups during his time rising through the youth ranks.
The group of rising stars all have high hopes of racking up some first team minutes this season, as an appearance with the first team is just the preface to a promising, long and decorated career.
“It was big to be in the first team and that was the first step but now my next goal is to be a regular in the starting lineup,” Chavez said. “I know there’s a lot of work to be done still, but I keep my head up and have the confidence to play in the first team.”
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