Soccer

Big striker Ochoa strengthens Republic FC offense

Bee Correspondent

Republic FC forward Sammy Ochoa, right, and Orange County SC midfielder Richard Chaplow battle for the ball at Papa Murphy’s Park in Sacramento on Saturday.
Republic FC forward Sammy Ochoa, right, and Orange County SC midfielder Richard Chaplow battle for the ball at Papa Murphy’s Park in Sacramento on Saturday. rbenton@sacbee.com

Sammy Ochoa says he weighs 205 pounds and chuckled when asked if he’s underreporting as some adults do on their driver’s licenses.

Regardless, Ochoa is big for a striker and he’s already been a big addition to the Republic FC offense.

He scored two goals Saturday night in a 4-0 win against Orange County SC at Papa Murphy’s Park. A week earlier, he notched a goal and an assist in a 2-1 victory over the Seattle Sounders 2 to open USL play.

But don’t think his extra large jersey conceals extra pounds. Ochoa is strong and throws his weight around, literally, just as Republic FC coach Paul Buckle likes to see. His size in front of the box is just what Buckle wanted in the offseason: someone who could pound on smaller defenders, not be taken off the ball easily, put sizzle on shots and find the back of the net.

“Sammy takes great pride in his fitness,” Buckle said. “His weight doesn’t concern me at all. He’s not heavy.”

Ochoa, who is 6-feet tall, said his heavier frame has caused him some frustration on the pitch. He said he gets called for fouls after colliding with defenders, who usually bounce off him, sometimes in comical fashion. Smaller defenders blast him in an attempt to get him off the ball, leading to non-calls as they ricochet after contact.

“I’m strong on the ball,” Ochoa said. “As a center forward I have to be. I’m around the box all game and my style is to make it hard on defenses.”

He’s been giving defenders trouble his whole career. Ochoa played for USL’s Tulsa Roughnecks FC and led the team in goals in each of the past two seasons. Last year, he scored 11 goals and had six assists, and was twice named USL Player of the Week. In 2014, he played for the now-defunct Wilmington Hammerheads and led that squad with six goals and five assists. He scored the team’s lone playoff goal that season in a 4-1 loss to Republic FC in the USL Cup quarterfinals.

Ochoa – whose older brother, Jesus, played for the LA Galaxy and Chivas USA of Major League Soccer – spent three seasons with the Seattle Sounders before being released in July 2013. So, he took great pleasure in scoring, and assisting on the game winner, last week against Sounders 2.

“It’s always fun to go back and score against the team or organization that let you go,” Ochoa said. “Every time I play in Seattle I’ve scored a goal, I think, so Starfire Stadium is like a second home.”

“When Seattle released me, it hurt,” said Ochoa, who started his pro career in Mexico’s Liga MX with Estudiantes Tecos. “But they used my (roster) spot to sign Clint Dempsey, so I didn’t get released for nothing. Ever since then, I think I’ve shown that I still have it in me to compete at a high level. I’ve improved in the USL every year and I’m glad I’m in Sacramento for this season. ... I’m here to win a title and to help any way I can.”

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