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Sacramento Republic 2020 player postmortem: Jaime Villarreal

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Underrated midfielder shows he’s a keeper.

Courtesy of Republic FC

Jaime Villarreal seems to have found a home at Sacramento Republic FC.

The midfielder entered the season as one of the longest-tenured continuously present players on the roster, alongside Cameron Iwasa, Villyan Bijev and Rafael Diaz, all dating back to the 2018 season.

But the LA Galaxy product returned for another season, and while he wasn’t an automatic starter, he certainly got plenty of reps in the new regime of Mark Briggs this year.

Here are Villarreal’s stats for 2020:

Jaime Villarreal 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 12 9 757 2 1 12 4 4 0
Playoffs 1 1 120 0 0 2 0 0 0
Total 13 10 877 2 1 14 4 4 0

I actually think Villarreal is a really underrated player. He’s renowned for his defensive midfield skills with Republic FC but he’s clearly been working on his all-around game, too, matching a career high in USL Championship play this year with two goals, to go with one assist.

Really, Villarreal is a holding midfielder first and foremost, but he does a little bit of everything: Shield the defense, make tackles, hit passes from deep, uncorking a blast from distance...

...or making the late run into the box to get a head on a cross.

Even with the obvious qualities, there were two main questions about Villarreal coming out of the season. One is his durability, as he’s had injury issues in his Sac Republic tenure, although he was available most of the season this year, which is promising.

The other was whether Briggs really rated him, since it felt like he came off the bench a lot. Turns out, in looking back at his stats, Villarreal only came off the bench three times, and started 10 times otherwise, which was more than half the games the team played all season. So I’ll be honest and admit that perception turned out to be false.

And an even bigger indication that Briggs likes Villarreal is that the midfielder will be back in 2021, with Sac Republic exercising his contract option for next season. Villarreal is 25 and still has some good years ahead of him, and I don’t think it’s inconceivable he could still improve, too. At the very least, I think if he stays healthy he can be a lockdown starter, and if he gets a good run, he can finally get some more recognition of his game outside Sacramento, if he and the team have a good season.

So I think the move is one to be happy about. Like I said, I think Villarreal is really underrated, and I look forward to watching more of his game moving forward after a solid 2020 campaign.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.