Heading into a new season and a new year, fans of the Indomitable Club are intending on seeing their squad compete for an eighth straight trip to the playoffs. But before the boys in Old Glory Red begin their prep for the upcoming season, here are 21 reasons to get excited about the 2021 campaign.
2020 was the first season Head Coach Mark Briggs was at the helm for Republic FC and he managed to guide his team to a 30-point season and place in the postseason. Despite a four-month hiatus, the boss kept his boys focused and delivered a positive debut season on the touchline.
Hayden Sargis and Mario Penagos made Republic FC history last season when they became the only players from SRFC’s youth development program to make their first team debuts in the starting lineup on opening night. With plenty of first team experience under their belts, it will be exciting to witness both players grow, mature and continue to hone their already impressive skills.
The Polish playmaker finished his second season in Sacramento with a team-best eight goals and set a club record for fastest brace scored in SRFC history in just four minutes. Formella joined the Indomitable Club midway through the 2019 season and since 2020 was a shortened campaign, 2021 will potentially be the first full season Darek will have to impress SRFC supporters.
Formella’s already been a force to be reckoned with during league play but his best may still be yet to come.
After scoring his 50thcareer goal during USL Championship play, Cameron Iwasa became one of just eleven players in league history to hit the half century mark. The prolific goalscorer holds seemingly every offensive statistical record in club history but the Jesuit High School graduate will not rest until he delivers silverware to his hometown of Sacramento.
Kharlton Belmar has been recognized by the USL Championship as a Rookie of the Year in 2015 and has since made a name for himself as one of the league’s most dangerous attackers. Belmar led SRFC in assists last season with four and his lone goal on the year elevated his career tally up to 43 goals during Championship play.
If Belmar can bag seven more in 2021, he’ll join Iwasa in a very exclusive club.
It was extremely sad to see the departure of Reno 1868 FC after a number of successful seasons in the USL Championship but the boys in Old Glory Red will have a new regional rivalry to look forward to against newcomers Oakland Roots. Prior to the pandemic, Roots and Republic FC were slated to clash in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup before the competition was called off. Looks like 2021 will be the first competitive meeting between the Northern California clubs.
Speaking of CB's, SRFC fans can look forward to the return of experienced defender – Mitchell Taintor. After spending a season with San Antonio FC where he anchored a defensive unit that allowed the fewest goals in the Western Conference alongside San Diego, Taintor returns to the Indomitable Club where he previously played two seasons patrolling the back line and scoring one of Republic FC’s most memorable goals.
SRFC made a big splash this offseason when the Indomitable Club announced the signing of midfielder Petteri Pennanen – the Finnish Veikkauliiga Midfielder of the Year in 2018 and 2019. Pete has featured for Finland’s youth and senior national teams and 2021 will be his first stint in North America during his impressive 16-year pro career.
Recently signed winger Maalique Foster brings to Sacramento with him an eye for goal, sizzling speed and first team international experience with the Jamaican Men’s National Team. With eight caps under his belt, Foster was a member of the Reggae Boyz squad that marched all the way to the 2019 Gold Cup Semifinals.
While manning the net for Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC in 2020, goalkeeper Tomas Gomez helped to guide the Eastern Conference club to the USL Championship playoffs while competing for the starting job with the league’s Golden Gloves winner – Danny Vitiello. This coming campaign, Gomez will join Rafa Diaz as another reliable option for Head Coach Mark Briggs to confidently call up to stop shots for Sacramento in 2021.
In 2020, SRFC Youth Academy products Hayden Sargis, Mario Penagos, Rafael Jauregui and Julian Chavez all saw first team minutes while Diego Ramos was available as a substitute off the bench in a number of Championship fixtures. This coming season, it will be exciting to see if any other young players in the youth ranks earn an opportunity to train with and potentially play for the first team.
Head Coach Mark Briggs encourages an attractive and attacking style of soccer so to create as many offensive opportunities as possible, it’s important to have defensive players that can add to the attack. Retuning for 2021 are versatile fullbacks Jordan McCrary and Shannon Gomez who can contribute on both ends of the pitch while the Indomitable Club also welcomes left back Duke Lacroix who not only is a formidable force on the back line but he entered the league as a striker and definitely hasn’t lost his eye for goal.
Speaking of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, North America’s oldest knockout soccer competition is hopingto return in 2021. In years past, the Indomitable Club upset and eliminated MLS-clubs Seattle Sounders FC in 2018 and Real Salt Lake in 2017. The 2021 squad has the perfect mix of veteran experience and young stars on the rise to make a run in the next edition of the tournament.
Since 2019, Republic FC has refurbished unused tennis courts into futsal courts for the entire community to share. Two refreshed, safe places to play have added more resources for the community to keep health at the forefront and sharpen soccer skills. The development of the next set of courts has yet to be determined, but there’s no doubt that those discussions are in the works with local community leaders.
Injuries are part of the game, but it’s always heartwarming to see a player return to the field after an unexpected absence. In 2020, Shannon Gomez made his return to the pitch after over a year of rehabilitation and Andrew Wheeler-Omiunu was sidelined for a number of matches with a high-ankle sprain. It will be exciting to see both dynamic players giving their all for SRFC in 2021.
The pandemic has made youth soccer, like all youth sports, a difficult area to navigate regarding gatherings and the regulations and restrictions in different states. As teams slowly return to action, no group is itching to return to developing their skills more than the SRFC Youth Academy squads.
When Rafael Diaz first stepped in goal in 2020, he immediately shined, and his brilliance never faded. Rafa earned the Fans’ Choice Save of the Week twice last year and made the USL Championship Team of the Week for Week 15. His stellar performances made him one of the most reliable GK’s in the league and was just 15 minutes shy of tying a club-record for longest streak without allowing a goal.
Not only will the match against Oakland Roots be a first for competitive play between the two, but a first will also be the first time Republic FC will host Western Conference club San Diego Loyal SC in Sacramento. Last season, the two teams played out a nil-nil draw in SD which was the first-ever meeting between the two California clubs.
Since the start of the pandemic, Connor Sutton has chatted with the most impactful individuals, players, and coaches on The Breakaway: A Republic FC Podcast. With the turn of a new year comes new episodes to look forward to both leading up to and during the 2021 USL Championship campaign.
Rafael Jauregui signed his first professional contract in December after joining the first team in July when he signed a USL Academy contract. Weeks later, Rafa became the youngest player in club history to appear in a league match when he entered as a second half sub against Reno in July and on September 30 against Tacoma Defiance, he became the youngest in club history to start for SRFC during USL play.
Since EURO 2020 was bumped one year to 2021 due to the pandemic, soccer supporters have a slew of major tournaments to look forward to watching this calendar year. The beautiful game for both men’s and women’s will be on center stage at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo this summer as well as the Concacaf Gold Cup where Mexico will look to defend its title. In South America, The 2021 Copa America competition will go on as planned and same goes for national teams in the midst of their World Cup Qualifying campaign.
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