After winning a USL championship in their inaugural year, Sacramento Republic FC quickly identified youth player development as a key priority for the club, launching their own Academy program in March.
Now halfway through their inaugural season, the Republic FC Academy is quickly following the first team’s path to success. In their first major national appearance, both Republic FC’s U-15/16 and U-17/18 sides went undefeated, each going 2-0-1 in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy Winter Showcase in Lakewood Ranch, Fla.
For Academy Director Rod Underwood, the five-day showcase was a testament to the Academy players’ growth and passion.
“Overall both teams continue to grow and develop in the areas we are stressing,” said Underwood, who noted their goal going into the showcase was to give players minutes to develop. “Some players are showing promise as they begin to exhibit what they are learning in training in the games more consistently.”
The U-18s kicked off their first day of the showcase with a strong start, picking up a 3-0 win over FC Boston Bolts. Forward Ivan Gutierrez opened up the match with an early goal, giving Republic FC the opportunity to press forward the majority of the first half. Midfielder Will DuBay capped off the first half with a long-range blast into the back of the net to give Republic FC an early 2-0 lead at half.
While the second half got off to a slower start for Republic FC, forward Joseph Restani converted a penalty kick to seal the 3-0 win.
“Overall a solid performance by the group in general,” said Underwood.
During the second day of the showcase, U-18s played Indiana Fire Academy to a 3-3 draw prior to the U-16s playing their first match of the showcase against DC United. Gutierrez and Restani netted their second goals of the road trip, while midfielder Alexis Vazquez earned an assist and goal. While Republic FC gave up their one goal lead late in the match for a 3-3 draw, Underwood was pleased to see players learning to adapt in match situations.
“We exposed ourselves a bit too much on the defense which opened some dangerous opportunities for our opponent, which they capitalized on to level the score,” said Underwood. “Our response to that was excellent. We began to open up their defense with good ball speed along with line breaking runs and passes. It was very pleasing to see.”
After the U-18 match, the U-16s played DC United—one of the top Academy programs in the country—to a 2-2 draw. Shaft Brewer Jr. and Omar Oseguera netted the goals for Republic FC, but the club failed to find an opportunity steal the win.
The following day, the U-16s captured their first win of the showcase, earning a 1-0 win after a slow start against PA Classics, with Brewer netting the ultimate match-winner.
“This game was a growing match for this group in multiple areas,” said Underwood about their match vs Classics. “First thing was having the defensive shape move as a compact unit. Then, technically our players did well to handle the physical pressure placed by the opponent. Finally the group showed the ideas being trained are becoming clearer for the group.”
On Sunday, the U-18s wrapped up their showcase with a 1-0 win in their third and final match. Forward Restani netted his third goal in as many matches for the win.
The seven points earned by Republic FC during the showcase helped the U-18s move to third place in the Northwest Division of the Western Conference, behind Seattle Sounders FC and Vancouver Whitecaps FC. The U-18s are currently in playoff position, with the post-season starting in June 2016.
Meanwhile, the U-16s wrapped up their third match of the showcase on Monday, running away with a 3-1 win over Beachside SC. Omari Fontes, Dominic Maestretti and Alejendro Perez netted goals to secure the U-16s the win.
The U-16s are currently in fourth place the Northwest Division of the Western Conference, behind Vancouver Whitecaps FC, Seattle Sounders FC and Crossfire Premier. Midway through their inaugural year, Republic FC are in a wildcard position for the post-season.
“Overall it was very good results for us,” said Underwood.
Alongside the U-14s, both Republic FC’s U-16 and U-18 sides are on winter break through the rest of the month. U.S. Soccer Development Academy play resumes on January 9, 2016. For the full Republic FC Academy schedule, visit SacRepublicFC.com.