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2020 Sacramento Republic player postmortem: Villyan Bijev

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Tricky attacker had season of contrasts, depending how you look at it.

Courtesy of Republic FC.

Villyan Bijev returned for his third full season with Sacramento Republic FC in 2020. The attacker had kicked off his career by starting at Liverpool, but in approaching his late-20s, the Bulgarian-American had settled into a good spot at Sac Republic.

Coming off a somewhat disappointing season in terms of production in 2019, Bijev had to adjust, just like everyone, this season, and all in all, he did that. In many respects, 2020 was a bounce-back campaign for him.

Bijev played in every game in Mark Briggs’ first season as head coach, although the appearances were a mix of starts and appearances off the bench. Ultimately, he ranked second on the team in scoring and tied for third in assists, so pretty much what you’d expect from a key player rank-wise.

Here are Bijev’s stats for 2020:

Villyan Bijev 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 16 10 908 4 2 30 10 1 0
Playoffs 1 1 120 0 0 1 0 0 0
Total 17 11 1,028 4 2 31 10 1 0

I think the flipside to the team ranks for Bijev’s production is that the pure numbers weren’t outstanding. Four goals and two assists from a key attacking contributor aren’t stellar, honestly, even in a shortened season. And with most of the attack struggling to put together consistent numbers, that lack of consistent production was highlighted all the more.

At the same time, that is also a compelling argument in the player’s favor, that most players were unable to really put up great numbers, so maybe he deserves a break. If so many players struggled to really click, maybe there was a problem with the roster, or the system that was difficult to overcome.

I’ll also say that in looking a bit deeper in the numbers, they’re still fairly kind to Bijev. His goals per 90, assists per 90 and Goals+Assists per 90 numbers were by far the best in his three seasons in Sacramento, and exceeded his overall career numbers in those categories, and was good for fourth on the team overall, second among players who played a majority of the minutes in 2020. So in that regard, Bijev turned out to be basically the second outlet in scoring and still a playmaker who pitched in.

Out of all that, comes the news that Sac Republic appear to be moving on, announcing Bijev’s contract option for 2021 was not picked up and indicating he won’t be coming back. As always, it’s possible the player wanted to move on himself, and we’ll see what happens. It’s also a solid bet he was one of the most expensive players on the roster and Republic FC may have wanted to save some money by parting ways.

Bijev was an incredibly popular player and a technical attacker who doesn’t exactly grow on trees. He’s also versatile in terms of role and position in attack, in the mold of a very poor man’s Carlos Vela, and that’s not a common mold for players.

At the same time, I do think there’s a perpetual hope Bijev will provide more production than he ends up doing. He’s about to turn 28, so capable of playing at a high level for several more years, but his high point in terms of production in the league was an eight-goal, 10-assist season in 2016, his first season in USL with Portland Timbers 2. In a regular-length season, I think it’s fair to say he probably won’t approach double-digits again, because the track record isn’t showing it.

Now, after being such a downer, I do think Bijev still had a solid season. I think he won’t be easily replaced, and the aspects that don’t show up on the box score, like his footwork, his ability to juke defenders along the sideline, his workrate, were outstanding. There’s likely a bunch of teams that have been calling to try and get him to join their side, and if Sac Republic face him next year, he could easily punish them.

He also had an absolute banger of a goal to really sum up Sac Republic’s final win of the season, a romp over T2. Let’s admire that once again, shall we?

What do you think? Leave a comment below.