Sacramento Republic has always been a team with some serious talent in central midfield. Fortunately for us, even with some significant roster turnover since the 2016 Depth Chart Series came out, that seems to still be the case this season.
Here’s a breakdown of who the Republic has available at central midfield, starting from the top and working down to the bottom.
1. Jeremy Hall
At the beginning of the 2016 season, you would be hard pressed to find a Republic fan that recognized the name Jeremy Hall. Those who did would probably know him from his time with Toronto FC in MLS from 2012 to 2014. Now, however, it would be difficult to find a Republic fan that does not recognize his name.
Hall came to the Republic as a loan player from the Tampa Bay Rowdies in July of last year and immediately established himself as an important part of the team, playing nearly every single game from that point onward. Hall immediately improved a midfield that had struggled at times to put its mark on games and control proceedings in the middle of that field. His experience and passing ability helped to improve how the Republic as a whole moved the ball, which in turn made the team run much more smoothly. Before Hall showed up, the Republic were earning an average of 1.7 points per game. After he came to the team, it earned an average of 2.1 points per game.
It is no wonder that when it was announced that Hall would be returning for 2017, this time a a full-fledged Republic player, the fan response was overwhelmingly positive.
2. Adam Moffat
Throughout the off-season, the rumor was the Paul Buckle was looking to make a big move to upgrade the Republic’s central midfield. If bringing Jeremy Hall back was one part of that move, signing Adam Moffat was another.
Moffat is a veteran midfielder with more that 10 years of professional playing experience, most notably with MLS’s Houston Dynamo from 2011 to 2013 and most recently with NASL’s New York Cosmos. If last Saturday’s game against FC Cincinnati is any indication, he will likely be Buckle’s go-to partner with Jeremy Hall.
That Moffat-Hall pairing could potentially be the Republic’s best ever. New ICS contributor Matt Weber had this to say about the effectiveness of the partnership in his most recent article.
In the center of the pitch, Hall and Moffat were are a particularly effective paring. The duo screened Republic's vulnerable center backs, clogged up passing lanes and made tackles all over the pitch. An area that Republic needed to improve on last year was distribution from center midfield, and Moffat seems to offer the threat of long, vertical, on the ground passes. The ability to beak lines of defense from midfield is another arrow in Buckle's growing quiver.
3. Danny Barrera
Although Barrera has been an important part of the Republic since he signed with the team 2015 season, last season he became crucial to the team’s success. He was named captain, took over set piece delivery duties, and generally acted as the team’s creative hub.
He appeared in all 30 of the Republic’s USL games last season (starting 29) and set a team record for appearances and starts. He also recorded nine assists, setting another record and bringing his all-time total to 12, just one below the Republic’s all-time assist leader, Rodrigo Lopez. He also scored three goals of his own. To cap it all off, he was deservedly named to the All-USL First Team.
Barrera looks primed to continue being a big part of the Republic’s plans this year. So then why is he all the way down here at number three, I hear you cry. Well even though Barrera himself has said he likes central midfield better, he has most regularly been used by Buckle as a wide midfielder. And if the recent FC Cincinnati friendly is any indication, he’ll probably continue to be utilized out wide.
4. Agustin Cazarez
Some Republic fans may not realize this, but Agustin Cazarez is one of the longest tenured players on the team. Only Dominik Jakubek and Emrah Klimenta, both signed before the team ever kicked a ball in league play, have been with the team longer. Cazarez was signed late in the 2014 season, in the same week as James Kiffe.
Since he signed with the Republic, Cazarez has appeared in 31 USL games: 1 in 2014, 16 in 2015, and 14 in 2016. In that time Cazarez has bounced around a bit between his more natural midfield position and fullback. However, he seems to have found a home in central midfield under Buckle.
From his comments in the past, Buckle seems to value Cazarez as for his flexibility and hard work — both extremely useful to have in a rotation player. And that’s really where he fits in to the Republic roster, as someone that can fill in for injured players or come off the bench without a drop in quality.
What do you think of this picture of the Republic’s central midfield? Did we miss anyone? Should the order be different? Sound off in the comments below!
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