August marks the return to school for many schools across the Sacramento region. For Republic FC’s Academy it also means back to the pitch for the 120 players who make up the club’s youth academy.
The 2017-2018 season will feature six age divisions, starting at the U-12 level all the way through U-18/19s, across U.S. Soccer Development Academy programs. This season will see the addition of a new age group – the U-15 division. The rest of the age groups thus will be split differently, with the older groups now split into U-16/17 and U-18/19 categories, instead of U-15/16 and U-17/18 age divisions like in previous years.
The Republic FC Academy enters their third season off of a remarkable performance in the 2016-2017 season. Both the U-15/16s and the U-17/18s clinched a place in the playoffs, and both reached the group stage. Additionally, for the second year in a row, Republic FC’s Academy was honored with multiple USSDA End Of Year Awards highlighted by two coaches and three players receiving awards.
2016-2017 Academy U-14 Head Coach Mikey Varas and current U-15/16 Head Coach Simon Elliot were both recognized as Coaches of the Year in their respective age categories. Varas’ U-14s put in an impressive performance at the USSDA Summer Showcase with a 4-0 win over Oakwood Soccer Club. Throughout the season, the U-14s put in several dominant performances, including a 13-0 win in the beginning of the season. The U-14 age category and below in the USSDA do not record standings or have playoffs.
For his part, Elliot took the U-15/16s to the group stages of the USSDA playoffs for the second year in a row. Although the U-15/16s did not advance to the Quarterfinals, the team had a solid season. Elliot and the U-15/16s earned a record of 18-10-4 during the USSDA regular season and finished in fourth place on the West U-15/16 Northwest Division standings. The U-15/16s also had the second-highest goals scored in the Northwest Division with 53, second only to standings leaders Vancouver Whitecaps FC U-15/16s.
Defender Travian Sousa was named to the U-15/16 Western Conference Best XI. Sousa made 22 (18 starts) appearances during the USSDA regular season and played in all three of Republic FC U-15/16s’ group stage playoff matches, starting two of those. Sousa has previously been called up to the U.S. Soccer Boys National Team.
For the U-17/18s, midfielder Giovanni Aguilar and forward Francis Avoce were both named to the Western Conference Best XI in their age group. Aguilar started in 24 of his 27 appearances, recording one goal during the regular season. He started all three matches in the group stage of the SRFC U-17/18s playoff matches.
Avoce led the Republic FC U-17/18s in goals scored with 18, earning himself a spot in the Western Conference Top 10 Goal Scorers leaderboard. Avoce also clinched a spot on the Goals Per Game Played leaderboard. The 19-year-old defender made 28 appearances, starting in 23 of those matches.
Back Row (L to R): Younes Dayekh, Seamus McLaughlin, Francis Avoce, Omari Fontes, Armando Conover. Front Row (L to R): Leopoldo Hernandez, Diego Villapudua, Cameron Douglas, Keegan Ness
Both Aguilar and Avoce will be going on to join NCAA Division I soccer programs this fall, along with eight of their Republic FC U-17/18 teammates. Aguilar will head to California State University, Northridge, while Avoce will play at Loyola Marymount University. They all become the second class of Academy players heading to play collegiate soccer, after seven players from the 2015-2016 season went on to play DI soccer at universities across the state.
Along with those players going on to play collegiately, there are two Academy products already plying their trade in the professional ranks of the sport. Sixteen-year-old midfielder Roberto Hategan, who signed with Republic FC’s first team last month, made his professional debut on Saturday, Jul. 15 against Liga MX club CF Pachuca in an international friendly. Hategan played the entire first half.
“It was amazing and it was an awesome crowd,” said Hategan. “I love the atmosphere. I wish I could have got a goal in but otherwise it was good. I thank Coach [Buckle] for putting me in, and I thank the Lord for giving me this chance.”
“Hategan was excellent [in his debut] and he’s barely 16 years old,” said Head Coach and Technical Director Paul Buckle. “We started him on the right even though he’s more comfortable on the left. Once I moved him into the space as a number 10 he looked outstanding. He was excellent receiving the ball and making smart plays. I think anyone with a football brain could see why I’ve given him a contract at his age. I saw those attributes early.”
The Roseville native is the first-ever SRFC Academy player to sign with the Republic FC First Team, but he is not the first Academy product to sign a professional contract. Midfielder Ryley Kraft, who played with the Academy from 2015 through part of the 2016-2017 season, signed with Orlando City B in March of this year.
With his step into the first team, Hategan doesn’t forget the foundation laid down by the two years spent in the Republic FC Academy. Instead, he heralds all the support and guidance, on and off the pitch, that he received from coaches and players in the Academy.
“It was a great and crucial step in my career. The Academy helped me better every single detail of the game, from the touch, to the pass, to the correct foot to use,” said Hategan. “It’s a first-class program and it shows in the awards the program has earned. Simon [Elliot] fully deserves getting U-15/16 Coach of the Year. He’s an amazing coach. And the players, Francis, Gio and Travian all really earned their spots on the conference teams.”
Hategan joined the Republic FC Academy in its inaugural season in 2015-2016, scoring 20 goals in two seasons with the program. Prior to joining the Academy, Hategan played with local youth club San Juan Soccer Club. In addition, the midfielder was called up in April 2016 to the U.S. National Team U-16 Boys’ Team. Hategan appeared in two matches with the U.S. BNT, including an appearance in the Delle Nazioni Tournament against England.
For Buckle, signing Hategan is a great sign that the Academy is heading in the right direction in just it’s third year. Buckle has worked closely with the Academy coaches to ensure that the young players are held to the same standard as the First Team and seeing some of the players already developing into first team talents is priceless for not only Buckle but the club as well.
“It’s been a great year. Any time you get a young player through to the professional ranks is a success," said Buckle. "It’s not about results at the Academy level, on the field although winning is a huge part of development of a player but the real result is getting players into the first team and into the squad and we’ve done that this season. We’ve set the bar high and we’ve got to continue it. I’m looking forward to working with the coaches and all of the players again for this new season."