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MLS NEXT Apr 21, 2021

Sacramento Republic FC signs five MLS NEXT players to USL Academy contracts

Sacramento, Calif. – Sacramento Republic FC has added five local players from the club’s youth development academy to the first team roster.

The five players – Erik Centeno, Julian Chavez, Ulises Esquivel, Emmanuel Johnson, and Jesus Sanchez – have signed USL Academy contracts making them eligible to join Republic FC for USL Championship matches, pending league and federation approval. The five players joined Republic FC earlier this year for training camp in preparation for the 2021 season.

Last year, Republic FC signed four players to USL Academy contracts, including Rafael Jauregui, who signed his first full professional contract last fall – joining fellow academy players Hayden Sargis and Mario Penagos on the first team.

“Our academy continues to produce quality people and quality players, and we are delighted to see this group earn the opportunity for first team minutes. Danny, JuJu, Uli, EJ, and Chuy have impressed in preseason and will be valuable pieces for us, especially in this condensed season,” said Republic FC President & General Manager Todd Dunivant. “Our academy staff continue to do a tremendous job of cultivating players that embody our club identity and playing style and can seamlessly contribute to the goal of winning a championship for Sacramento.”

Chavez, an 18-year-old midfielder from Sacramento, has been a member of Republic FC’s Academy since 2015. Last season, “JuJu” joined the first team after signing his first USL Academy contract. In 2020, he earned his first USL Championship start, scored a game-winning goal against Timbers 2 to support the club’s run to the playoffs, and was in the game day squad nine times and made four appearances as a substitute. Chavez will wear #22.

Centeno, an 18-year-old defender from Stockton, returns to Republic FC after a brief stint with FC Dallas. “Danny” joined the Indomitable Club’s academy in 2015 and has logged matches at each age level. During U.S. Soccer Development Academy competition, he appeared in 105 games (85 starts) and scored 13 goals. Centeno will wear 52. Before joining Republic FC, Danny played for local youth club, East Valley FC.

Johnson, a 17-year-old forward from Fairfield, joined Republic FC’s Academy in 2016. Before last season’s hiatus due to the pandemic, he logged 90 appearances (63 starts) with 29 goals scored while competing for Republic FC’s academy across various age groups in U.S. Soccer Development Academy competition. Johnson will wear 53. Before joining Republic FC, EJ played for local youth club, North Bay.

Esquivel, an 18-year-old defender from Sacramento, joined Republic FC’s Academy in 2019. In the abbreviated 2019-20 season, he logged 14 appearances with 11 starts in U.S. Soccer Development Academy competition. Esquivel will wear 54. Before joining Republic FC, Uli played for local youth club, Sacramento United.

Sanchez, a 17-year-old goalkeeper from Madera, has been a member of Republic FC’s academy since 2017. In three seasons, “Chuy” made 50 appearances (49 starts) for the Indomitable Club’s youth sides across U.S. Soccer Development Academy competition. Sanchez will wear 39. Before joining Republic FC, Chuy played for local youth club, Cal Odyssey.

USL Academy contracts allow academy players the chance to play with the first team in professional matches, while retaining their NCAA eligibility by preserving their amateur status. Since 2018, sixteen Republic FC Academy players have signed USL Academy contracts and joined the first team for trainings and matches to continue their development at the highest level.

Republic FC is the only professional team in Northern California with a youth development academy that can offer unique first team development, a fully integrated professional pathway for 11-12 years old, and top-flight competition from across the country through MLS NEXT.

Republic FC will welcome back fans to matches for the first time in a year this Saturday, April 24 at noon, when the Indomitable Club hosts Real Monarchs.