A day removed from signing a new contract with Sacramento Republic FC, I had a chance to sit down with Cameron Iwasa ahead of an appearance at Republic headquarters to get his thoughts on his return to Sacramento, last season’s experience with Sporting Kansas City, Sacramento’s Major League Soccer (MLS) expansion bid, and more.
One thing that was clear during our 10-minute conversation is that the Sacramento-native is very happy to be home and playing again with Republic FC. The experience he was able to gain with Sporting Kansas City and Swope Park should benefit the Quails moving forward.
And given that no Republic player cracked double digits in goals last year, his arrival will be a welcomed addition to the Republic attack in 2018. Remember, it was Iwasa who led the Club in goals in 2016 with 12.
Without further delay, below is the transcript of our conversation:
First off, how are you doing? Is it good to be back home in Sacramento?
Absolutely. You know, [I was] born and raised here. I’ve lived the large majority of my life here, so it’s always good to be back home. I was home for the off-season either way, and then after talking to Paul (Buckle) a little bit, my agent and family, and piecing everything together, there’s just not a better situation for me right now. It’s a great team, [there’s] been a lot of post-season success, [they’ve] been in the playoffs every year in [their] existence, and last time I was here, we finished on top of the Western Conference in the regular season. So hopefully we can continue that run of success.
What drew you to back to Republic FC? Obviously, there was mutual interest between you and the Club.
I was just thinking about a situation where I can maximize myself. I have a comfortability with Paul and a number of the players that will be returning, so having that familiarity is huge…especially on the pitch. The culture around the Club is continuously growing from the first year I was here, to the second year, last year and hopefully this coming year. So it’s something that I am looking forward to.
When you think about last season, what immediately comes to mind?
Just disappointment. I had a lot of high hopes. Obviously, it was a great opportunity for me to get a chance to sign with an MLS team. I had a couple of unfortunate incidents. I went down with an injury in pre-season and that kind of hindered me a bit and I never quite bounced back from it. So it’s definitely disappointing reflecting on it, but at the same time I learned and grew a lot. I actually feel like I improved as a player just being around some of the guys that played with the National Team, and not just the U.S. National Team, but other National Teams. So I just learned from them, particularly from a team camaraderie, leadership side of things.
Do you think you got a fair shot with Sporting Kansas City?
I don’t want to put it in those terms. When it comes down to it, it’s pretty much a cut-throat business. I got hurt, and by the time I came back, the team was playing extremely well. We were on top of the table, everything was going right, and so from a manager perspective, I understand…there’s no reason to switch things up at that point. So, I think I was a bit unlucky in that sense, but I don’t think there was anything unfair that happened.
How well do you see USL being able to prepare young players to enter MLS?
I think the league from my first season in 2015, to last year...it’s continuously gotten better. You look around at the talent level on each team and it continues to grow. Especially my first year, there were a couple of teams in the league, and I said OK, that’s an easy win, that’s an easy win. There’s no easy wins anymore. Every game is a battle. Every team has quality players, and a lot of teams have quality younger players. So from that perspective, I think there’s a lot young guys that are given a chance to develop their skills.
Training camp starts in a little more than a month. What are you doing to get ready?
I’ve been fortunate enough in my time here that I have a good relationship with people at Results [Results Physical Therapy and Training Center] and Luke Rayfield. He hosts a workout group for professional soccer guys, and so me and a few other Republic players have been working out there. There’s also a bunch of us that get together to play pickup soccer a couple of times a week just to stay fresh on the ball and to get the touches.
One of my good friends who coached me when I was younger…I go out with him a couple times a week to do striker training to just stay sharp so I am ready to go.
Have you been following the Sacramento to MLS saga? What’s your view on it?
I’ve been on the outside looking in, so I don’t have quite the inside track, but I see the same things the fans see. [Sacramento] is ready to go, the support is there, the stadium plan is there. It seems like there is a great blueprint to host a successful MLS team, so I got my fingers crossed. I would absolutely love to see the team get the bid and to potentially play for that team.
Finally, what is your favorite holiday treat? Please say it’s fruitcake.
Ah come on, no….[laughs]…I like the basic frosted sugar cookies. Like, a cutout snowman. I can’t not have one of those when I see them.
On behalf of Indomitable City Soccer, I want to thank Cameron for his time and the Republic for their assistance in setting up the interview.