SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — In four days the Sacramento Republic FC will restart their season and while fans won’t be able to attend the home match, they’ll probably be hoping to catch a glimpse of Sacramento-area native Rafael Jauregui.
At just 15 years old, Jauregui, better known to his teammates as “Rafa,” is already a professional soccer player.
The teenager grew up in Sacramento and was just signed by the Republic last week to their academy. They then added him to their first-team roster.
“When you see him with our first team you wouldn’t be able to pick out that he’s the 15-year-old,” said Sacramento Republic FC General Manager Todd Dunivant. “He’s got that kind of persona, that personality to be able to hang with the big guys.”
Hanging on the field is one thing Jauregui has got down. But sometimes just getting to the pitch is not always as smooth as he’d like it to be.
“I have to have my mom drop me off at practice and everyone else is bringing their own cars,” he told FOX40. “It’s a little uncomfortable sometimes seeing everyone driving and me just having to have my mom drop me off.”
Despite that, his teammates say Jauregui “plays confidently.”
“He’s a great kid. He comes in and that is what kind of separates him,” said Republic FC defender Matt Mahoney. “He’s not a timid 15-year-old player. He’s a confident, good, on the ball kind of player. Which, as he gets older, his confidence will build and he’ll be even better.”
“Little steps at a time,” Jauregui said. “I want to become a regular starter by next year, that’s what I want.”
“A lot of times what you see with young players when they come in, they’ll be a little hesitant. They’ll defer to the older players,” Dunivant told FOX40. “Rafa doesn’t do that. He just plays, he makes the right pass at the right time, and that’s rare. You don’t see that too often.”
Jauregui joined the Republic’s academy three years ago. His development is what earned him a contract.
Now, he’s looking to earn minutes on the pitch from head coach Mark Briggs.
“Once you get into the rhythm of the practice and the games, it doesn’t really matter anymore,” the teen said. “It’s on me to prove to him that I can play but, at the end of the day, it’s up to him.”
“He’s been impressing out here,” Dunivant said. “I think he’s earned the respect of his teammates, which is first and foremost. He’s definitely got our respect, and we’re excited to see what’s next for Rafa.”
About the only thing uncertain about Jauregui’s game right now is how much time he’ll actually see on the pitch come Monday night in the Sacramento Republic FC’s return to play against Tacoma.