Cameron Iwasa. The Sacramento native who starred at Jesuit High School, and then later at the University of Irvine before signing with Sacramento Republic FC back in 2015, is on track to becoming the greatest Republic player of all-time. Yes, I said it. He has a chance to surpass even the great Rodrigo Lopez in 2019.
Before we get to far into this though, let me start by saying that I promise you that this is not some hot take. I know what you might be thinking. It’s the off-season, we’re looking for things to write about...but it’s honestly something I have been pondering for awhile— especially in light of Iwasa’s season last year where he smashed Lopez’s club record of 21 career USL goals, and of course, his record-breaking season in 2016, where he set a franchise record of 12 goals in a season (which he would go on to break in 2018 with 17).
Listen, I love Roro as much as anyone. I was on the sideline for the Miracle at Bonney as he willed the Republic to victory in what was one of the most exciting sporting events in Sacramento’s history. I was there when the club hoisted the USL Cup a week later too and Lopez was named USL Playoffs MVP. He was sensational in every sense of the word.
That said, if you take away for a moment the Miracle at Bonney and all of its glory, I do wonder how much of the sentiment around Lopez being the greatest Republic player ever is also related to the fact that he was the first player signed to a contract, the club won a championship in its inaugural year, and that he was/is an all-around awesome guy?
What I am saying is this. Have we built up a little nostalgia around RoRo being the best ever given that incredible first season? Or maybe that’s not fair?
Consider for a second Iwasa’s United Soccer League numbers as a member of the Republic: 83 appearances, 6069 minutes played, 30 goals, 10 assists, and two All-League Second Team honors in 2016 and 2018. When you couple his statistics with the fact that Iwasa does so many little things within the game to help his team win — for me, he has at the very least played himself into the conversation.
It should be stated that Lopez filled the stat sheet as well, but because he played in over 30 games less than Iwasa, it’s not fair to compare the two in that regard.
Perhaps the fact that Lopez led the Republic to a title is what still separates him from Iwasa in most eyes, and I get that argument, but we also know that in footy, it collectively takes every player on the pitch to be successful.
If Iwasa is able to put up a similar performance like he did in 2018 and lead the Republic to a deep playoff run (or better yet, a USL Cup title), what else would he need to accomplish to hold the title as the Republic GOAT (Greatest of All-Time)?
Maybe you agree with me, maybe you don’t. But as I stated earlier, the conversation is worth having as Iwasa moves into his third full season with the Quails. I know one thing — he has certainly earned the right to be in the discussion.