Open Tryout to Open Cup: Republic’s Young Aldair Sanchez Taking his ChancesGet to know Aldair Sanchez – the open trialist who had two late assists in his Open Cup debut before starting again in a Third Round win against Oakland Roots.
The former Portland Timbers youth academy player and University of North Carolina Tarheel got word that various second-tier USL Championship clubs were hosting open tryouts.
The United Soccer Leagues network was familiar to him as he’d previously played in USL League 2 with PDX FC and logged two appearances with Portland Timbers 2 on an Academy contract in 2019.
Republic an Interesting Option
“Sacramento was the first team that I thought of,” said Sanchez as he recounted the day last December when Sacramento Republic rose to the top of his wish-list. Interestingly, it was his experience as a former Academy player that drew him to the Northern California club -- and not necessarily last year’s captivating run in the Open Cup.“Every time I was in the Portland Timbers academy, we’d lose to them [the Republic], so I looked them up, saw they had some open tryouts and [decided] I would attend and hope for the best.”
“If I’m being honest, I wasn’t too aware [of their Open Cup run] until I signed up for the open tryout and looked more into how they’d done the last season,” Sanchez said. “Then I was like ‘wow, they made it super far…all the way to the Final.’ It became another motivation for me to try out here.”
As the saying goes, the rest is history. Sanchez was one of three players invited to the first-team training camp, and he traveled with the club as part of the Desert Showcase in February where he logged meaningful minutes against Major League Soccer (MLS) sides Real Salt Lake, Chicago Fire and Austin FC.
Suddenly a Pro
Sanchez signed his first professional contract with the club in early March, becoming only the sixth player in Republic history to earn a first-team contract from an open tryout.
After making his professional debut on March 11 against El Paso Locomotive FC, it was the Second Round of the Open Cup against amateurs Crossfire Redmond (NPSL) on April 5 where Sanchez shined brightest.
Not only did he start and play 120 minutes (regular and extra-time), he chipped in with two critical assists in the 80th and 85th minutes to erase a two-goal deficit when Republic were on the ropes and looking like heading out early.
Ultimately, they survived and advanced (5-4 a.e.t) after a back-and-forth thriller.
And make no mistake about it, the 20 year-old Sanchez made his mark. The result could have gone the other way if not for his contributions.
“It was just amazing, my first start in front of a good crowd…I was almost overwhelmed with emotions,” said Sanchez. “Once that first assist happened, that’s when I really believed we could definitely do this.”
First One, Then Another
“Obviously, the second goal rolls in and we’re tied 2-2 and I was just overrun with emotions…I just started screaming. It was just a great feeling to contribute,” he said.
That performance in the Second Round led directly to a starting spot in the next round of the Cup – last week against fellow USL Championship side Oakland Roots. And, once again, the youngster did not disappoint and did his part in the 1-0 win that sets up a home contest in the Round of 32 against MLS’ Colorado Rapids.
Hard work, determination, belief and opportunity are all keys to success. And for Sanchez, it all boils down to something his father instilled in him as a child. Keep going, keep trying as hard as you can no matter what, and prove to people why you deserve to be on the field.
That grit is something Republic FC manager Mark Briggs and his staff noticed right away.
“Since we had him with us, we’ve been really impressed,” said Briggs, who coached the side to last year’s Open Cup Final, where they survived 70 minutes on the road at MLS’ Orlando City before capitulating 3-0.
“What he did on the field…we weren’t surprised,” Briggs went on. “We’re really happy with what Aldair has shown since he signed his contract. He continues to push and I’m just surprised he was a free agent and we were able to get him signed up.”
Briggs has made it clear that just like last year, the club has a plan to manage the demands of USL and Open Cup play. And while the squad’s arguably deeper this season than last, the fact remains that there should be plenty of opportunities for young Sanchez to get minutes because he’s proven he’s up to the task.
That could well mean another opportunity for him on Tuesday May 9th (LIVE on the Bleacher Report App or B/R Football’s YouTube Channel) – when the Republic try to get the better of the Rapids at home at Heart Health Park. If they do so, it would be the fourth top-flight team they knock out of the Open Cup in the last two editions of the tournament.
More Minutes Likely
“[Sanchez] has put himself in a position where he can get minutes not only in the Cup, but also in USL league play,” said the English-born Briggs. “My staff and I completely trust him and so we’re comfortable putting him in whatever game. We want to put a team on the field for the Open Cup that we feel can get us into the next round.”
Sanchez stands ready and is confident in his ability to contribute. And he understands what it takes.
“[For me] it’s about working hard and believing I can do it, but also it’s showing an end result,” said Sanchez. “Ultimately, I need to produce. How do I keep producing for us whether that’s in training, or as a sub…it’s finding a way to always get an end product every time I go in.”
Keep going, keep trying, and prove to people why you deserve to be on the field. Wise words from a father.
Whether Sanchez will play again in the next round remains to be seen, but some facts are undeniable. He’s in the rotation. He’s seizing his opportunity and he’s already made a big impact on Sacramento’s 2023 Cup Run.
Hodges is a contributor @opencup, @usopencup and @calstormsoccer. Formerly, he was the editor of Indomitable City Soccer. You can follow him on Twitter @william_hodges