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My Debut: Rafael Jauregui

By William Strome, 01/27/21, 6:15PM PST

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The youngest player to feature in a league fixture for Republic FC recalls the unforgettable moment he first graced the pitch as a pro

Rafael Jauregui made Indomitable Club history on more than one occasion last season. 

Not only is Rafa the youngest to appear in a league match for the boys in Old Glory Red, but he’s also the youngest to start a regular season game for Sacramento. 

His first start was a September 30 trip to Tacoma where the SRFC Youth Academy product logged 62 minutes of invaluable first team action against Defiance. But it was a warm evening on July 19 against Reno 1868 FC – a dramatic 1-0 result where Republic FC won it late – that Jauregui will never forget. 

To kickoff Republic FC’s My Debut series, what better player to tell the story of his first-ever USL Championship match than Sacramento-born Rafael Jauregui. 

When did you first find out you were going to be included in the 18-man squad? 

“I talked to Mark Briggs the day before and he let me know that I was in the squad. He let me know ‘Rafa, you had a good week and I’m looking to putting you into the squad against Reno’ and he even talked about giving me a couple minutes to debut for the first time. Right when I heard that I was hecka nervous! I felt like I was coming off a good week and that just topped it off. I just thought, wow, this could happen.”

What were the first thoughts running through your mind when you heard that?

“Honestly, it was all kinds of emotion. I was super excited but at the same time I was super nervous. My heart started skipping beats, I was like, wow, this is really happening right now. There were a lot of emotions that day.”

What do you remember about the day leading up to the match? 

“I remember I fell asleep pretty early that night, I wanted to get good rest. I took pictures with the warm-up clothes with my mom and my dad and my brother then my dad drove me to the field.”

Was there anything a friend or family member told you during the day that really stuck with you?

“My dad had told me on the way there that no matter what, if you play or don’t play, we’re super proud of you for the fact that you were even able to make the roster, to even get the chance to go in. We’re proud of you either way, no matter what happens today.” 

You've prepared for hundreds of games in your life but did this one feel any different?

“Even with the academy, I would get nervous before big games playing against teams like Seattle Sounders or Portland Timbers, teams like that. This feeling was like that, but double!"

"The nerves were going all over the place but so was the excitement as well.”

What do you remember about the warm-ups? 

“I remember passing on the side of the field with the other subs and I remember looking up to where my Dad and family were, they were really loud! My mom, dad, brother, like six, seven cousins and like four aunts and uncles and my grandma were there [watching from the levee].”

Is it safe to assume when you walked out of the tunnel right before kickoff the first place you looked was to see your family on the levee?

“It was, and they were super loud when they saw me! They were screaming. So yes, for sure, the first thing I did when I walked out was look to find them and see where they were.”

When did Coach Briggs tell you to warm-up and what were you thinking when he called you over? 

“He told me one or two minutes before I went in, maybe a little more. I was warming up and think, oh my God, this is happening! I didn’t know for sure that it was going to happen that day because we were tied, and it was against our rivals Reno. I didn’t know if it was going to happen so when I heard [coach call me over], the nerves shot up again, but it was a good thing."

"Mark just told me to go in and play as if I’m playing with the academy, get touches on the ball and try to make a difference. So I went and tried to do that and we ended up winning with the penalty which was good.”

What do you remember about the match and how did you feel about your performance? 

“I think I played alright. I didn’t play too many minutes, so I didn’t get too many touches on the ball, but I was comfortable enough and after the first touch I just got into the game at that point and the nerves started to calm down. It was a good way to do my debut.” 

What did the team tell you after the match? 

“It was a lot of congrats and a lot of fist bumps around because we couldn’t hug like that or we would have gotten in trouble! They ended up giving me one of the match balls and everyone had signed it, that meant a lot to me. Everyone was really nice and really cool about it.”

What do you remember about the ride home and the hours after your debut?

“The drive home my dad ended up parking really far away for some reason, so I had to wait! My mom and dad were there, and I was like, ‘can I drive home?’ because I wanted to drive home from that game. We were in a truck and when my dad got out from the drivers’ seat, I ended up giving him my match shirt, the debut shirt, and he got really emotional. That was really nice, and I could tell that it meant a lot to him. I just ended up eating the dinner [the team] gave me and that night I was starstruck, I fell asleep pretty late that night, not going to lie. I was starstruck.” 

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  • My Debut: Rafael Jauregui

  • By William Strome 01/27/2021, 6:15pm PST
  • The youngest player to feature in a league fixture for Republic FC recalls the unforgettable moment he first graced the pitch as a pro
  • Read More