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Returning for 2021: Diaz’s Calming Presence Anchors the Defense

By William Strome, 11/23/20, 5:00PM PST


SRFC’s goalkeeper rose to the occasion in 2020 and nabbed a number of league-wide accolades

Goalkeeper Rafa Diaz’s stellar 2020 gives fans a lot to look forward to in 2021. 

His contribution this past season helped the Indomitable Club reach the playoffs for a seventh straight season, carry a 10-game unbeaten streak through the heart of the campaign, and remain at the top of the league’s Golden Gloves race all season long. 

Starting with his first appearance in net, Rafa set a tone that Republic’s defense would be among the top in the league. He grabbed the starting shirt in August – and through 4 games in 14 days, he nearly broke the club record for consecutive minutes without surrendering a single score with 320 straight scoreless minutes – just 15 minutes shy of the record. 

Rafa finished the game against Reno 1868 FC on Aug. 12 with five saves to preserve a 1-0 win.

The league took note of Diaz’s superb play and honored the unbeatable netminder with a pair of USL Championship Fans’ Choice Save of the Week selections (Week 8 and Week 12.) A thrilling 8-save performance in the regular-season finale earned Diaz a spot of the USL Championship Team of the Week. Rafa was a revelation this past campaign, posting an unbeaten 7-0-3 record during regular season play. 

“To see him grow, to see him evolve, to see his confidence get bigger, to see him come in with his chest out – we saw a different Rafael Diaz and I was unbelievably proud of him,” Republic FC Head Coach Mark Briggs said during the end of the season press conference. “To see the trust build within the group, to see him make big saves in big moments in big games, it’s great to see and that’s what football is all about. Rafa has grown so much over the course of this year and I think we’re better for it as a club and he’s better for it as a professional and we love having him. He was fantastic this year and we’re fortunate to have him at our football club.”

In three seasons in Sacramento, Diaz has now donned six career clean sheets during league play and seven across all competitions. After holding offensive powerhouse Phoenix Rising FC scoreless during regulation of the 2020 USL Championship Western Conference clash, Diaz and the SRFC’s stellar defensive unit were the only squad to prevent Rising FC from scoring at home over 90 minutes of play this year. 


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