By CHARLIE CORR – firstname.lastname@example.org
Monday, March 7, 2016
Arizona United SC enters its third USL season with a number of changes, starting with two-time MLS Coach of the Year Frank Yallop at the helm. United’s sophomore campaign had its share of shortcomings on both sides of the ball, including a league-high 55 goals allowed, so needless to say the changes were inevitable. Arizona is still in search of its first playoff berth, and with some redefinition among the staff and roster, the club hopes to turn the tide in Year 3.
Head coach: Frank Yallop
Stadium: Peoria Sports Complex
2015 results: 10-16-2 record; 10th in Western Conference
2015 postseason: Did not qualify for USL Playoffs
Goalkeeper: The busiest goalkeeper in the USL is back between the pipes for Arizona. Carl Woszczynski set a USL record with a whopping 130 saves in 2015 and he was integral in United staying in contention for a number of games throughout the campaign. With some new pieces in front of him, the hope for Woszczynski and the club is that his high-level play will result in a lower workload, fewer goals conceded and a stronger offensive presence.
Defense: Arizona’s biggest need to address this offseason was the defense, and the club made a significant addition in signing German Julian Ringhof. Ringhof’s 2015 rookie season was a memorable one, serving as part of the Rochester Rhinos’ sturdy back line en route to the 2015 USL Championship. Combined with the return of versatile defenseman Brock Granger and veteran Scott Morrison who has been with United every step of the way, Arizona could be leaning in a positive direction in this part of the pitch.
Midfield: Scottsdale native Blair Gavin highlights a new element to Arizona’s midfield this season. The 27-year-old brings some needed experience and stability to the group. Gavin was a key two-way player for the Portland Timbers 2 during the 2015 season. Another interesting piece is the addition of Peter Kelly, who has called Arizona his second home before. Kelly spent the 2014 PDL season with FC Tucson, before returning to his home state of Missouri to represent Saint Louis FC last year.
Forward: USL All-League First Team striker Long Tan has been the face of Arizona’s offensive engine, and coming off an impressive 14-goal season last year, he’ll continue to be the heavy focus of opposing defenses. But Arizona has added some help with the return of Sam Garza. Garza spent the 2014 season with United before upping his play with Seattle Sounders FC 2 last year on the way to a USL postseason berth. Garza had four goals and two assists in 23 matches on a deep S2 club and will likely have an even bigger role with Arizona this year.
Strengths: It is fair to say that at opposite ends of the field, Arizona has two of the league’s most experienced personnel elements with Carl Woszczynski in goal and Long Tan up front. Rarely will either player come up short in their respective departments. Woszczynski’s clutch save-making ability and Tan’s danger around the goal truly are the staples of this club.
Weaknesses: The Desert Diamond Cup and preseason in general should be taken with a grain of salt, but between some disappointing results and last season’s shortcomings, United enters this year with the same defensive question marks until it proves otherwise. Arizona’s midfield and defense are quite revamped, and gelling together quickly under a new coaching regime will be vital in turning things around.
Key number: 130 – Carl Woszczynski’s USL-record, single-season save total in 2015 crushed the previous record held by former Dayton Dutch Lions goalkeeper Matt Williams. Williams made 115 saves during the 2012 season. Woszczynski mustered just the sixth 100-plus-save performance in USL history.
Noteworthy matchups: Arizona is thrown into the fray this season with a difficult five-game road trip from March 26-April 15. The first four opponents advanced to last year’s postseason – 2015 USL runners-up the LA Galaxy II (March 26), Seattle Sounders FC 2 (March 30), Sacramento Republic FC (April 2) and Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC (April 9).
Coach’s view: “I want this thing built properly and built to last. That’s the plan.” – Frank Yallop
Current roster (updated: March 7, 2016):
Goalkeepers: Carl Woszczynski
Defenders: Brock Granger, Scott Morrison, Julian Ringhof, Damian Rosales, Eduar Zea
Midfielders: Jose “Chiva” Cuevas, Blair Gavin, Peter Kelly
Forwards: Sam Garza, Long Tan