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Insiders Look into the 2021 Boys in Old Glory Red: Defensive Midfielders

By William Strome, 02/15/21, 10:00AM PST

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This trio of central midfielders have no qualms doing the dirty work for Republic FC

Sometimes the stats that mean the most don’t always show up in a traditional box score. 

While goals and assists are glorified, contributions such as clearances, interceptions, tackles and scoring chances created are the most crucial statistical categories of all. 

And currently listed on Republic FC’s roster are three players with plenty of experience getting physical between the boxes and springing an offensive surge when an opportunity presents itself. 

Before the boys in Old Glory Red come together for training camp, it’s time to take a look at each of the central defensive midfielders who never seem to shy away from a tackle or 50-50 challenge. 

Jaime Villarreal

No. 24
Age: 25

Since he joined from MLS-side LA Galaxy in 2018, Jaime Villarreal has become a staple in the heart of Republic FC’s central midfield.

Villarreal has finished the last two campaigns with the most interceptions on the team by a midfielder and in 2020, the Inglewood-native led Sacramento in blocked shots with nine and led the SRFC midfield unit in tackles (26) and tackles won (17). 

The former Major League Soccer midfielder has been an interictal part of the squad and led the boys in Old Glory Red in minutes played, appearances and starts following the 2019 season. 

But for all the tremendous qualities Villarreal brings to the defensive side of the game, he’s also a dangerous scoring threat and has the skills to create a scoring opportunity from very little to work with. Across all competitions during his time in Sacramento, the SRFC workhorse in the midfield has five goals and five assists. Of those, two goals were game-winners and two assists set up the game winning strike for Republic FC. 

Andrew Wheeler-Omiunu

No. 28
Age: 26

The powerful player joined Republic FC prior to the start of the 2020 regular season and Wheeler-Omiunu not only brought a tenacity to the midfield unit, but a MLS Cup to his name as well.

He previously played with Atlanta United during the club’s title-winning run before heading to Arizona to play for Phoenix Rising FC and FC Tucson. 

Right from the get-go, the midfielder impressed the coaching staff and earned a spot in the starting eleven for Sacramento’s season opener against FC Tulsa on March 7. Wheeler-Omiunu played the full 90 minutes and lead the entire squad with five interceptions. 

It was an outstanding first impression prior to the pandemic, but shortly after the league returned to play, he suffered a high ankle sprain – causing him to miss eight of Sacramento’s 16 regular season fixtures. When he returned, Wheeler-Omiunu appeared in the club’s final three matches before the Western Conference playoffs when the Harvard grad logged 116 minutes against the eventual conference champions.  

Now, a healthy Wheeler-Omiunu can’t wait to get a full season of Championship play under his belt with the boys in Old Glory Red.  

Luis Felipe

No. 96
Age: 25

An experienced and versatile midfielder, Felipe Luis joins the Indomitable Club after three seasons competing in Major League Soccer with the San Jose Earthquakes. 

During his time in San Jose, the defensive minded midfielder appeared in 21 matches and logged 1,210 minutes of first team action. During his debut campaign with the ‘Quakes, Felipe started 11 of the 15 matches he was included in the 18-man squad. 

In his ninth appearance during his first season in SJ, Felipe dished out his first career assist during a league match against Sporting Kansas City on September 15. He might be touted for his brilliant play between the boxes, but Felipe can create chances just as quickly as he can take them away.  

Despite all his experience at the top level of domestic soccer, the 25-year-old has laced up his boots in the USL with Reno 1868 FC prior to playing in the Bay Area. He impressed during Reno’s record-breaking season when the squad scored 75 goals during the year and Felipe added five of his own. 

In 2014, SRFC’s newest midfield signing was called into the U.S. U-20 National Team under head coach Tab Ramos. 

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