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Sacramento Republic depth chart: Midfielders

Experienced group bolstered with strong reinforcements for 2020.

Morelia v Veracruz - Torneo Clausura 2019 Liga MX
Rodrigo Lopez returns for what all hope will be a second successful stint with Sac Republic.
Photo by Jaime Lopez/Jam Media/Getty Images

Sacramento Republic are looking to be a legit USL Championship contender in 2020 and perhaps their greatest position of strength heading into the campaign is in midfield. A strong, experienced group return, with a couple very intriguing reinforcements, and the center of the park could be very fearsome indeed. Let’s run through the options in midfield on the roster, in alphabetical order:

Villyan Bijev

MLS: U.S. Open Cup-Sacramento Republic FC at San Jose Earthquakes Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

The 27-year-old returns for his third season and is likely to be a key player again for Republic FC. While Bijev is a playmaker, he’s more of the player setting the tempo in attack rather than filling up the stat sheet, and his skills at close control will likely suit him, and the team, well this coming year.

Darek Formella

Os Belenenses v KKS Lech Poznan - UEFA Europa League
Formella at a pre-Sac Republic stop in his career.
Photo by Carlos Rodrigues/Getty Images

A midseason addition last year, Formella returns for his second season in Sactown and will look to build upon a decent start in 2019. The Polish attacker has a versatile skillset, but his midseason arrival and personal anguish, with his father dying last year, gave him some real adversity. With some time to settle, and hopefully grieve, could Formella be a breakout player in 2020? He’s got a lot of competition, but head coach Mark Briggs name-checked him in an interview last week and he might be the best candidate for that possibility.

Rodrigo Lopez

RoRo chased his Mexican dream, played in the top flight in Liga MX and now returns to the club that is arguably his home in Sacramento for a second stint. Now 32, Lopez ran USL on his first go-round with Republic FC, but it’s been five years since he was bossing the league and the league has expanded by 11 teams. No one questions Lopez’s ability, but the big questions will be how he fits in the squad this season and what his level is these days relative to the USL Championship. Still, if the fan favorite can hit the ground running again, that old championship magic may be in the air...

Mario Penagos

Penagos at his signing ceremony.
Courtesy of Sacramento Republic FC.

The homegrown signing is looking to make his debut performance in league play this year and with a small squad heading into the season, the 17-year-old could very well get that chance sooner than later. Projected to be an attacking-minded midfielder, we’ll see what the rookie can do in his first pro season.

Drew Skundrich

MLS: U.S. Open Cup-Sacramento Republic FC at San Jose Earthquakes Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

The Stanford product was the surprise scorer last week with a preseason brace against San Jose, and if the more defensive-minded midfielder adds a few more goals to his toolkit all the better for Republic. Skundrich returns for his second season and looks set to be a fixture in the lineup again this year, and will likely be tasked with shielding the defense and pushing the ball up to his teammates ahead of him.

Jaime Villarreal

Joe de Ocampo

Likely to partner Skundrich in two-way midfield is Villarreal, back for his third season in Sacramento. Villarreal was the minutes leader for SRFC in 2019 and while he was overshadowed by his older brother Jose in the LA Galaxy system, Jaime has blossomed into a much more consistent pro to date, and at 24, seems like he can be a top-tier USL Championship holding mid for years to come, possibly even a player who could possibly get another MLS look in the future.

Sam Werner

Joe de Ocampo/Indomitable City Soccer

Also 24, Werner returns for his second season and will be called upon to play a significant role in attack again this year. The Stanford product has a variety of ways to beat opposing teams, and while finding a spot in the XI is going to be hard for this entire talented midfield group collectively, expect Werner to be pushing for a starting spot all season long. If he hits a vein of form, he may never look back.

Andrew Wheeler-Omiunu

MLS: U.S. Open Cup-Atlanta United FC vs Chicago Fire
Wheeler-Omiunu (left) in his Atlanta days.
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The newcomer this season, the 25-year-old joins Sacramento after splitting time last year bossing USL League One with FC Tucson, and helping Phoenix Rising FC put together a blistering season in the regular season in the USL Championship. Wheeler-Omiunu previously spent two years in Atlanta United’s system, and the midfielder has a versatile skill-set and will probably be called upon to do a little bit of everything this season.

Which midfielders will be the top players for Sacramento in 2020? Who will breakout this year? Can Rodrigo Lopez pick up right where he left off in the league? Let’s chat in the comments below!