When he was a boy, Octavio Guzman dreamed of playing soccer for his favorite team, C.D. Guadalajara, better known as Chivas.
He will get to experience the next-best thing Wednesday night.
The third-year Republic FC midfielder is expected to play against the Liga MX side in a friendly at Bonney Field.
“I’m excited; it’s a dream,” said Guzman on Tuesday, after Republic FC’s last training session of the season. “My whole family is coming, but I’m not sure if they will be coming to watch me or they’re coming to watch Chivas.”
Guzman was born in Guadalajara, raised in the Bay Area community of Bay Point near Pittsburg and starred at Chico State.
He’s been a huge follower of Liga MX and played for Republic FC in a friendly against Atlas FC, Chivas’ bitter rivals, in 2014 at Bonney.
Republic FC has been at the forefront of USL franchises in hosting international friendlies, having also played English Premier League sides Sunderland AFC, West Bromwich Albion FC and recently relegated Newcastle United. Sacramento also hosted the Scottish Premiership Rangers FC in 2014.
“It’s been amazing for a team like us to get so many opportunities like these,” Guzman said. “It’s a great chance as a player to be seen.”
The Chivas-Republic FC match could have been sandwiched between the USL playoffs this week for the Western Conference regular-season champions.
But Republic FC’s season ended 5-4 on penalty kicks last Saturday night against the Orange County Blues FC at Bonney Field after the sides were scoreless through 120 minutes of regulation and overtime.
“Chivas is a big game, but we’d much rather still be in the playoffs and looking to win another title,” said Guzman, who had a successful PK against the Blues FC. “We’re bummed about it.”
Guzman has been a key contributor since the 2014 season when Sacramento won the USL championship in its first season. He has played in more matches than any other Republic FC player, despite missing the final third of the 2015 USL season with a knee injury. He also missed games early this season because of a quad injury.
This season, Guzman played forward, all four midfielder positions and right back for Republic FC coach Paul Buckle.
Wednesday night, however, could be his final game with Republic FC as he becomes a free agent.
“I haven’t given where I’ll be next season much thought because I can’t believe this season is over,” Guzman said. “I’m planning to go home and spend some time with my family, stay away from soccer for a bit, then go from there.”
Buckle said Guzman has been an important member of the team throughout his career.
“I’ve liked Tavo since I’ve come to the club,” Buckle said. “He’s given me everything as far as hard work and energy. But he’s got to have more quality to his game. How many goals has he scored? (He has two.) Is that enough, no? He needs to add that last bit of quality in the final third.”
For players like Guzman, Buckle sees the match against Chivas as more than a friendly.
“I want to get something out of the game,” Buckle said. “It’s an opportunity for some of our players. This week we have exit meetings, and I want to start the rebuild now, however big or small that is going to be.”