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2020 Sacramento Republic player postmortem: Rafael Jauregui

15-year-old made first steps in pro game in 2020.

Courtesy of Republic FC.

Rafael Jauregui took his first steps, potentially, in the professional game in 2020, at the tender age of 15. The midfielder, who signed a USL Academy contract with Sacramento Republic FC ahead of the season restart in July, ended up getting on the field and finding some playing time.

Mostly coming off the bench in his five appearances with the first team, Jauregui made one start, in the penultimate regular-season game of the year, against Tacoma Defiance, where he played 61 minutes. In the process, he became the youngest-ever starter for Sac Republic.

Here are Jauregui’s statistics with the first team this season:

Rafael Jauregui 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 5 1 101 0 0 0 0 0 0
Playoffs 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total 5 1 101 0 0 0 0 0 0

After making his competitive debut with the first team in July, the youngster was understandably jubilant.

“This game was a very great experience, it made me really happy. Just to know that my family was here, on the trail, to watch me felt really good. All the cheering they did throughout the game, it reassured me that I’m here for a reason and I’ve been doing good with the team,” he told reporters in a postgame press conference.

We only spoke to Jauregui directly the one time, but his excitement was certainly palpable on that night.

“I was very nervous, but I get nervous with every game, even with academy games,” he explained. “But this one was double that. It was very nerve-wracking. But once you get your first touch on the field, it sort of goes away and I just got focused after that.”

Jauregui said that night that getting his competitive debut, after playing in a friendly for Sac Republic last year(!) offered even more motivation to stay in the team.

“It makes me hungry for more minutes and to be able to play more and get myself in the 18 more often, and maybe by the end of the season get a start and becoming a crucial part of the team. And banging in a couple goals, of course,” he said with a sheepish grin.

With a squad that was pretty experienced, it was also good to hear the youngest player in the squad was taken care of by his teammates.

“Everyone’s really nice to me, they help me stay focused on practices and of course the intensity is much faster and harder,” he said. “It was a big jump going from academy to first team, but everyone’s really reassuring and someone who’s helped me a lot is [Rodrigo Lopez]. He’s sort of mentored me and when I make a mistake he reassures me and tells me what I need to improve on and what I can do in certain situations to do better.

“It was really nice after the game, everyone congratulated me and told me I deserved this. But everyone’s been great to me.”

If I’m being honest, a 15-year-old who’s not even on a fully professional contract yet doesn’t deserve to have his game picked apart, not that I have anything rough to say about his play. I think Jauregui, in limited minutes, certainly looked like he can hang with a group of fully-grown men. I think this step this year is a possible first move before he signs a pro contract in the future.

It’s also worth noting that nothing is guaranteed — 2020 has been a stark reminder of that in itself. But Jauregui has shown promise so far, and he looks like he can play more. We’ll have to see if that happens in the future, and with Sac Republic. Who knows, maybe many years down the line, you’ll be able to say, “Remember when Rafa Jauregui started his career with Sac Republic in 2020?”

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