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2020 Sacramento Republic player postmortem: Mario Penagos

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Attacking midfielder showed a glimpse of the possible future for SRFC.

Craig Mitchelldyer-Portland Timbers 2 (Courtesy of Republic FC)

Mario Penagos was one of two Sacramento Republic FC academy products to sign a professional deal in 2020 with the club, and he got started quickly.

Then 17, the midfielder started the season opener, against FC Tulsa, putting in a tidy 67 minutes of work in his pro debut.

And then...the season stopped.

Penagos may have been one of the most unfortunate in dealing with the coronavirus shutdown, as he didn’t get back on the field until late August, and played just 21 minutes for the rest of the season in 2020.

Sac Republic head coach Mark Briggs said Penagos dealt with an unspecified injury this season, presumably slowing down his progress and preventing him from getting more minutes. Sometimes that happens, and it’s a shame, no question.

However, even in the limited minutes he played after the restart of the season, Penagos found a way to make a major impact, scoring his first goal in a memorable wild win over Portland Timbers 2 in Portland in September.

Here are Penagos’ stats for the season:

Mario Penagos 2020 statistics

2020 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
2020 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
Regular Season 4 1 88 1 0 2 2 1 0
Playoffs 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total 4 1 88 1 0 2 2 1 0

I know that those who watched Penagos play in the season opener in person were very impressed with his debut, and playing for the majority of that game, alongside fellow academy product Hayden Sargis, who had a breakout season, means Briggs believed Penagos was ready for the moment.

But aside from the goal in Portland, Penagos really didn’t get much run in 2020, and Sargis’ excellent season, as well as Julian Chavez’s even later goal in the same Portland game, overshadowed Penagos’ campaign on the whole. Again, it’s not really his fault, but these things happen sometimes.

Sac Republic haven’t released roster decisions yet for 2021, but my sense is that Penagos will not only be around next season, he’ll be asked to play a bigger role in his second pro season. One thing Republic FC’s lineup lacked at times was a pure attacking midfielder, with forward Kharlton Belmar often ending up as a surprise playmaker for the team, so if Penagos is healthy and up for the increased workload, Sacramento could have an upgrade next season. I also think the club is high on Penagos in general and project him to be a player who could get some real pro minutes under his belt before joining MLS with the club in 2023, when he’ll be 20 years old and perhaps ready for another step up in his career.

So it was an up-and-down season for Mario Penagos in 2020. He had a highlight play, he got a debut start, and otherwise it was just a few glimpses of the player this season. Still, if he stays healthy and continues to grind, we could see a lot more of him very soon.

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