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How Aldair Sanchez’s unconventional path has paid off for Republic FC | Young Player Spotlight

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 04/22/24, 4:05PM EDT


21-year-old scored first goal for Sacramento in win at Orange County, has shown progression this season after signing in 2023 off open tryout

Sacramento Republic FC's Aldair Sanchez has taken a step forward in his productivity this season, and bagged his first goal for Sacramento this weekend against Orange County SC. | Photo courtesy Isiah J. Downing / Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC

Aldair Sanchez’s story to this point, earning a spot with Sacramento Republic FC off an open tryout before the 2023 season, was remarkable in and of itself.

But after playing a supporting role in his first season for the USL Championship powerhouse, getting acclimated to the environment while surrounded by some of the league’s top players, the 21-year-old is making waves as his game comes into its own.

On Saturday night in a matchup of undefeated sides on the road at Orange County SC, he reached another landmark with his first goal in Republic FC’s colors. There might have been some good fortune to the 25th-minute finish, which looped over OCSC goalkeeper Duran Ferree after Sanchez slammed Jack Gurr’s cross to the back post from the right into the turf to find the right corner of the net, but for Republic FC Head Coach Mark Briggs the performance the left winger put in deserved the moment.

“I thought he was excellent,” said Republic FC Head Coach Mark Briggs. “I’ve been talking to Aldair and to Jack [Gurr]. We've been doing a lot of work on them getting what we call the assist zone, and sometimes crossing the ball to one another. Today Jack gets in there, puts the ball to the back post, and Aldair finishes it.

“I’m really proud of both of them, but it’s excellent for Aldair to get his first goal because his performances over the first six or seven games have been absolutely fantastic and he deserves that goal.”

Sanchez took an unconventional route to Sacramento. A member of the Portland Timbers FC Academy, he made his debut in the USL Championship for Timbers 2 in 2019 as a USL Academy signing before two seasons at the University of North Carolina.

Looking for a new path forward, he earned a ticket to preseason training with Sacramento last year after his open tryout performance, and from there earned a contract with the club. After logging 1,346 minutes a season ago, he’s started six out of Sacramento’s opening seven games of the regular season and has stepped up his game, logging an 85.1 percent passing accuracy rate and six chances created while also putting in solid defensive work.

While Republic FC has become known for developing its own talent through its Academy, Sanchez’s story shows there’s can always be pathway for those whose talent matches their persistence.

Here are some of the other young talents that caught our eye this past weekend…

- Kobe Hernandez-Foster, Birmingham Legion FC: The 21-year-old showed off his passing range in Legion’s 1-0 win against Miami FC, notching the hockey assist on Stefano Pinho’s goal and completing 70 of 73 passes overall while ending the night with five chances created.

- Julian Placias, North Carolina FC: The 18-year-old forward made the most of a gifted opportunity to open his USL Championship account but was solid otherwise, recording two shots on target in three efforts overall.

- Nighte Pickering, Memphis 901 FC: The United States youth international almost bagged another goal this season with a shot off the woodwork, part of a four-shot performance that also saw the 19-year-old completed 21 of 27 passes and complete 3 of 4 dribbles.

- Ray Serrano, Louisville City FC: The 21-year-old continued his strong start to the season with a strong two-way performance in which he completed 23 of 29 passes and 2 of 2 dribbles while also winning 4 of 5 duels and one tackle defensively.

- Fernando Delgado, Birmingham Legion FC: Making his debut for the Legion on loan from Real Monarchs SLC, Delgado notched a pair of saves to become the fourth-youngest player to record a shutout in the USL Championship’s regular season aged 17 years, 8 months, 26 days old.

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