Republic FC’s Max Alvarez kicks back into gear

Republic FC midfielder Max Alvarez had an impact rookie season in 2014.

Alvarez was one of the USL team’s early marketing focuses: the local boy from Napa High School and Sacramento State who made the team through an open tryout.

Alvarez ended his first season playing a big role in Republic FC winning the USL championship in its inaugural campaign, igniting talk of the team joining MLS someday.

In 30 matches, Alvarez scored three goals, had eight assists and finished tied for third on the team with 14 points.

But talk about a sophomore jinx.

Alvarez suffered a painful injury to his groin and pelvis region called osteitis pubis before the season and never fully recovered. He had been so encouraged by his rookie campaign that he overtrained during the offseason.

“I felt it running and even walking,” Alvarez said. “But the worst pain was striking the ball, obviously the thing you do the most in this sport.”

He said the injury left him mentally drained, and when he returned, he felt that he had lost the rhythm to connect with his teammates on the pitch.

Alvarez went from starting to rarely playing. He appeared just once for 12 minutes in Republic FC’s final seven games. He didn’t play in Sacramento’s season-ending 1-0 playoff loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy II.

Alvarez finished the season with just 18 appearances and 815 minutes. He had four assists and no goals.

“I didn’t have the fitness of the rest of the guys, and I was out for quite some time,” Alvarez said. “Still, that’s no excuse the way things turned out. Professional soccer is a grind. We’ve got more games; we’ve got better players. You always have to be there mentally in training. You can’t take days off.”

Alvarez, 24, was careful not to overtrain this offseason and came into camp Feb. 1 feeling refreshed.

Through the team’s first three matches, he’s starting to look like the old Alvarez. He played well after subbing for Cameron Iwasa in the 54th minute of the season opener against the Colorado Rapids and earned his first start in months against the San Jose Earthquakes, both at Bonney Field.

The left-footed Alvarez put a monster move on Quakes defender Shaun Francis in the eighth minute that set up Mackenzie Pridham’s one-touch goal that put Republic FC up 1-0 in an eventual 2-1 loss.

Alvarez also was credited with an assist on Harry Williams’ 13th-minute goal in a 1-0 win in Wednesday’s friendly at Sacramento State, where Alvarez earned his communications degree in 2013.

Coach Paul Buckle will watch Alvarez closely as Republic FC prepares for a nine-day, four-match trip that will begin Saturday night against the National Premier Soccer League’s Sonoma County Sol at Santa Rosa High School.

“There is an opening for him,” Buckle said. “ ... I need to give him enough time to start to believe in himself, and I’m hopeful to give him an opportunity.”

Alvarez says he will be happy to oblige.

“Last year helped me a lot,” Alvarez said. “This year, I’m healthier. I’ve prepared myself mentally and physically a lot better. So far, it’s showing. Hopefully it continues like this throughout the season.”

Bill Paterson: 916-326-5506, @SacBee_BillP

Saturday’s match

Republic FC at Sonoma County Sol, 7 p.m., at Santa Rosa High School