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Insiders Look into the 2021 Boys in Old Glory Red: Attackers

By William Strome, 02/17/21, 5:00PM PST

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A new face joins Republic’s foundation of accomplished, creative attacking players

With a full season ahead, the boys in Old Glory Red are looking to launch an explosion of offense. For 2021, the squad is ripe with options at the No. 9 and 10 positions on the field. 

The club is bringing back two USL scorers at the top of the record books – Cam Iwasa and Kharlton Belmar. Iwasa’s 50 and Belmar’s 43 – rank both in the top 13 of active players – are examples of how both strikers can find the back of the net. 

Behind them in the attacking midfield, fans will find a rising star in the club and a new face from Finland, ready to add his championship mentality to the club house. Mario Penagos is back for his second pro season and is ready to build on his Home Opener Debut and his first pro goal in the thriller against T2 last summer. Petteri Pennanen may be new to American football, but is intent on winning from day 1. The back-to-back midfielder of the year and Veikkausliiga champion is ready to test his skills in the USL. 

The attacking options set to feature in the offensive third this season are sure to give SRFC fans another reason to cheer. 

Petteri Pennanen

No. 8
Age: 30

Signed on December 7 after an impressive career in the topflight of Finnish soccer, ‘Pete’ joins Republic FC as a proven leader and experienced professional.  

Pennanen has previously played for Finland’s youth and senior national teams over his 16-year professional first team club career including stints in Indonesia, Poland, the Netherlands and Finland. The Finnish midfielder – who can line up on the left wing, in the central midfield or further up field in a more attacking role – also has experience competing in UEFA Europa and Champions League qualifying matches. 

Following the 2018 and 2019 league campaigns, Pete earned the Finnish Veikkausliiga Midfielder of the Year two consecutive years in a row – helping to guide his side to a title run in 2019 where he led Kuopion Palloseura (KuPS) in minutes. Pete also led the entire league with nine assists during that championship-winning season. 

Over his decorated career that covers almost 350 matches, Pete has featured in an impressive 97% of his club’s matches and accumulated over 26,000 minutes, 60 goals and 43 assists. 

The 2021 USL Championship season will be Pennanen’s first on this side of the Atlantic and given his versatile skill sets he brings to the squad, Pete will be a welcomed and exciting addition to Sacramento this coming campaign. 

Mario Penagos

No. 23
Age: 18

After five solid seasons honing his skills in Republic FC’s Youth Academy system, Mario Penagos earned his well-deserved first team contract prior to the start of the 2020 season. 

Alongside fellow teammate Hayden Sargis, Penagos became one of the only two players in club history to start his first team debut during a league match on Republic FC’s opening night. 

Following his first USL Championship campaign, Penagos registered over 80 minutes of first team play from four appearances. Penagos has previously been an available substitute off the bench the season before, having signed a USL Academy contract allowing him to train and compete with the first team in 2019. 

But his moment of magic from this past season came on September 2 when Penagos delivered a sensational strike that put his side up 1-0 late in the match against Portland Timbers 2. The goal was his first of his senior team career and was a pivotal moment in the club’s heated playoff push last season. 

After a shortened season due to the pandemic, 2021 will be Mario’s first full USL campaign with the first team and he will look to build on last season’s successes and continue to be a promising young star in Sacramento’s midfield unit. 

Kharlton Belmar

No. 9
Age: 28

Only seven goals away from joining Cam in the exclusive 50 goal club is Kharlton Belmar. 

Belmar joined the Indomitable Club prior to the start of the 2020 season and led the entire team in assists during the shortened campaign with four. He also added one goal, created 14 scoring chances and earned himself a Championship Team of the Week selection for Week 12. 

But with a full season to look forward to in 2021, Belmar is looking to build on a solid first season and break out as one of the league’s most dangerous attacking threats. When he first entered the league in 2015 with Portland Timbers 2, he instantly shined and earned the USL Rookie of the Year honor. 

The VCU graduate previously led two of the clubs he previously played for in goals during a single season including a dozen in his debut season with T2. Of those 12 goals, four just so happened to be game winners.

Prior to playing for T2, Belmar was drafted by Portland’s MLS-side in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft with the 34thpick. But the attacker finally earned his first MLS appearance two years later with Sporting Kansas City, before spending the majority of his time with Swope Park Rangers – rebranded to Sporting Kansas City II. 

To this day, Kharlton is still Sporting KC II’s all-time leading goal-scorer with 25 strikes. 

Cameron Iwasa

No. 31
Age: 27

Cam Iwasa has staked claim to several records in the club’s seven-year history. 

And perhaps one of the most special nights of his career with the boys in Old Glory Red was on August 15 this past season when Iwasa nabbed his 50th career goal during league play – a feat only eight players accomplished before him. That unforgettable night also just so happened to be Iwasa’s 100th career start with the Indomitable Club.

After back-to-back seasons where Iwasa set the single season scoring record with 17 goals during USL Championship action, the Sacramento-native finished a shortened campaign with three goals and two assists. Of his five seasons in the Indomitable City, Iwasa has netted double digit goals in three of them.

On top of his goalscoring feats, Iwasa also leads SRFC history across all competitions in minutes played (over 10,500), appearances (141), and starts (105). The prolific goal scorer also registered the fastest hat trick in club history when it took all of 27 minutes for Iwasa to break the OKC Energy FC back line for three scores back in 2019. 

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