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2020 Sacramento Republic player postmortem: Ash Apollon

Well-traveled trialist played a big role in Sacramento.

Courtesy of LA Galaxy

Ashkanov Apollon was the underdog story of Sacramento Republic’s 2020 season. Signed as a 28-year-old trialist, Apollon was an American who had played professionally in Asia and in the French lower leagues. In Sacramento, he was trialing to keep that dream of a pro career alive.

He did it, with Republic FC signing him, the only player from open tryouts to overcome the odds and get a contract. And from there, he learned and played at a new position in 2020, moving to left back after previously playing as a left winger or forward.

Here are Apollon’s stats for 2020:

Ash Apollon 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 11 938 0 1 8 3 1 0
Playoffs 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total 12 11 938 0 1 8 3 1 0

It turned out Sac Republic really needed Apollon, because he played major minutes in the middle of the season, with the squad’s other left backs, Juan Barahona and Shannon Gomez, out injured or recovering from long-term injury.

So learning a new position, on the fly, and playing the majority of the minutes, Apollon did quite well. I think it’s an absolute credit to him that he didn’t stick out like a sore thumb. Were there nervous moments? Yes. Did it look like he was learning as he went at times? Absolutely. But Apollon was really pretty steady as he got out there and was game every time his name was called.

Late in the season his minutes curtailed sharply, as Gomez and Barahona got fit again and got some minutes down the stretch and in the playoffs. I think Barahona and Gomez showed they’ve been playing left back longer than Apollon and were not surprising choices to move up the pecking order when healthy. That’s understandable. But I think Apollon’s ability to step in and play major minutes largely went under the radar. And when you’re a defender, going under the radar is often a very good thing!

What was a bit surprising was that Sac Republic apparently won’t be bringing Apollon back for 2021, as they announced he will be departing. Perhaps he has another opportunity lined up or wanted to leave, perhaps Sac Republic had a good run with him but was ready to move on, who’s to say? But I was a bit surprised, because while he’s not young, finding a depth option in defense, with the team also parting ways with Barahona, would seem to be an obvious move. At any rate, for whatever reason it’s not happening, and Apollon’s tenure with the club is over after one season.

But still, that season in Sacramento showed there are still underdog stories out there, and Apollon went from trialist to a pretty regular player for Republic FC in 2020. He showed that we shouldn’t give up our dreams, because a combination of talent, work and yes, luck can bring big rewards for those who seek them.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.