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Republic FC Exercise Contract Options on Four Players, Preparing for 2022 USL Championship Season

By Republic FC Communications, 11/12/21, 10:00AM PST

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Team MVP and Defensive Player of the Year set to return with 2021 late-season Captain, along with five other players

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Republic FC has begun building its 2022 USL Championship roster by exercising contract options on select players, while evaluating and recruiting players to join the Capital City club. Mark Briggs and his staff are slated to lead Republic FC for its 9th USL Championship season, and expected return to US Open Cup play. To form its 2022 roster, the club plans to exercise contract options on four players heading into the next season: Dan Casey, Duke Lacroix, Luis Felipe, and Maalique Foster. At this time, Republic FC will not exercise contract options for Tomas Gomez and Petteri Pennanen, and does not plan to renew contracts for Kharlton Belmar, Rafael Diaz, Shannon Gomez, Jaime Villarreal, Jordan McCrary, Andrew Wheeler-Omiunu, and Fatai Alashe, which will expire at the end of the current league year, November 30.

Local players who matured in Republic FC’s youth development program–Hayden Sargis, Mario Penagos, and Rafael Jauregui – remain under contract for the 2022 season, alongside the four players who have had their contract options exercised. The club remains engaged in contract negotiations with several players to return for the 2022 season, including Dariusz Formella, Tucker Bone, Emil Cuello and Carlos Saldaña. Additional roster announcements and player transactions will be announced over the next few months.

“After the longest offseason in club history, our expectations for the 2021 season were high, and in the end, we fell short. It was a disappointment to not make the postseason, but we aren’t going to dwell on the lost opportunities or difficult news this club has faced,” said Republic FC President and General Manager Todd Dunivant. “Our preparations for the 2022 season are already underway, and the focus remains on building a roster that can compete for a championship, support our community, and reflect the Indomitable spirit of the city. We are going to come back stronger than ever in 2022 and beyond.”

In the team’s eighth USL Championship season, Republic FC earned 36 points with an 8-12-12 record, finishing 7th in Pacific Division play. During the season, Republic FC ran a seven-game undefeated streak – fifth longest in club history, and an eight game unbeaten road streak, as well as a four-game undefeated streak to close out the season. On offense, the team posted 400 shots throughout the season – with double digit tallies in 23 matches (71%), however they would only convert 35 times with a 29% on target rating. The team conceded 42 goals on the year—seventh fewest among Western Conference clubs and in the top half of the entire league. The club’s youth development pipeline continued to flourish and create opportunity for local players. In 32 matches, seven players from Republic FC’s Academy logged 3,953 minutes – the most in a season in club history – and were available for match day selection 121 times.

Dan Casey, Duke Lacroix, Luis Felipe—who were integral in the 2021 squad’s defensive performance—will all return for their second season in Sacramento. The trio led the team in various defensive categories – clearances, blocks, tackles, duels and aerial duels. Luis Felipe finished the season among the league’s leaders in tackles and tackles won – and was selected Team MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, and co-winner of Goal of the Year by his teammates. Lacroix captained Republic FC twelve times this season, creating four assists and netting one goal after starting 90% of the club’s matches when available. Casey started 100% of the matches he was available for selection, and led the defense in clearances (98), blocks (21), and aerial duels (111) – winning 63% of his matchups against opponents. Maalique Foster will return for a second season, following a shortened debut season due to an injury. Foster entered the line up in mid-August and featured for Republic 15 times, creating an assist and setting up the team for opportunities by winning two penalty kicks in late game situations.

Five players with three or more seasons of service will leave the team following the conclusion of the league year. Rafael Diaz, Shannon Gomez, and Jaime Villarreal all signed with Republic FC ahead of the 2018 season, while Jordan McCrary joined in March 2019. Cam Iwasa joined the club in 2015 and has announced his retirement from professional soccer.

In four seasons, Diaz appeared 27 times across all competitions, while posting seven clean sheets and 59 saves – with an overall save percentage of 67%. Following a strong 2020 season, he earned his first national team appearance in January, representing Dominican Republic in World Cup qualifying and two international friendlies, posting threeshutouts in five international appearances.

Shannon Gomez joined Republic FC after playing two seasons with MLS-side New York City FC. He finishes with 86 appearances—including 78 starts—and four assists. In 2018, he led the team in minutes, starts, and appearances before sustaining a season-ended knee injury. In 2021, Gomez was named to the Trinidad and Tobago national team, where he started his first-ever World Cup Qualifier on June 5.

Jaime Villarreal signed with Republic FC after rising through the ranks of MLS-side LA Galaxy’s academy system, earning a homegrown contract and features for both LA Galaxy and Los Dos. After three seasons, he ranks third in Republic FC all-time appearances (102) and tied for seventhin all-time club assists (6). In the shortened 2020 season, Jaime led the entire midfield unit in tackles, tackles won, and interceptions. In 2018, he was named team MVP by his peers.

Jordan McCrary joined the Indomitable Club in 2019 after spending the 2018 season with MLS-side Seattle Sounders FC. In his first year with Republic FC, McCrary was voted by his teammates as the club’s Defensive Player of the Year after leading the entire team in interceptions, tackles, and tackles won. He finishes with 72 club appearances across all competitions, 66 of which were starts, and netted his first career goal this season.

Second-year players Kharlton Belmar and Andrew Wheeler-Omiunu, as well as first-year players Tomas Gomez, Petteri Pennanen, and Fatai Alashe will not return for 2022. Belmar and Wheeler-Omiunu both signed with Republic FC ahead of the 2020 season. Belmar appeared 41 times and logged over 2,500 minutes, adding six assists and two goals. Wheeler-Omiunu appeared 28 times with over 1,800 minutes.

First-year goalkeeper Tomas Gomez logged 39 saves and four clean sheets in 19 appearances, as well as earning an assist on a Tucker Bone goal on July 14. Pennanen joined Republic FC last offseason following a decorated career in his native Finland and logged 1,610 minutes in 28 appearances, shortened by an injury. Alashe joined the club at the start of camp and ends the year with 13 appearances, logging 651 minutes.

Throughout the winter, Republic FC will add players to the roster in preparation for an early February training camp.