Arizona United SC: 2016 Season Review

Arizona United SC endured a difficult 2016 campaign, missing out on the USL playoffs for the third consecutive season. A record of 9-7-14 saw the club finish 13th in the Western Conference and six points from grabbing the final postseason spot.

Arizona United SC: 2016 Season Review

Head coach Frank Yallop put together a squad that competed well with many USL teams, but could not find the consistency that was needed for a winning run of form.

The bookends of the regular season ultimately undid the 2016 campaign for Arizona. Two victories in their first ten matches dug an early hole in a talented Western Conference.

The season finished with only one win in their last eight games, as Arizona fans and supporters certainly became frustrated with poor results. A worrisome habit of allowing early goals put United in difficult positions to find victories. 28 of the 46 goals allowed in 2016 were scored in the first half of their matches.

Arizona United did see stars emerge. Chinese forward Long Tan scored ten goals and provided six assists, leading the club in both categories. His size and ability to get forward in the attack often caused issues for opposing defenses.

English winger Luke Rooney arrived this year from League Two side Crawley Town and made an immediate impact in his debut season with Arizona. Rooney scored eight goals and provided five assists, as his presence in wide positions was a great benefit to Yallop’s side.

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE SEASON

ARIZONA UNITED SC 3 – VANCOUVER WHITECAPS FC2 2 (8/3/16)

A second half comeback showcased Arizona United’s strong work rate and determination against Vancouver Whitecaps FC2 in August. After going down 2-0 in the 54th minute, Rooney scored two goals in a 13-minute span to tie the game 2-2.

In stoppage time, striker Chris Cortez sent the home fans into celebration mode with a goal to seal a 3-2 victory for Arizona.

FC TUCSON 0 – ARIZONA UNITED SC 5 (LAMAR HUNT US OPEN CUP – 5/18/16)

The second round of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup drew Arizona United against in-state rival FC Tucson of the Premier Development League (PDL). In the midst of a difficult stretch in their USL regular season, United enjoyed a dominant evening at Kino Sports Complex in an emphatic 5-0 victory.

Local bragging rights were secured in a major way and United moved on to the next round of the tournament.

PROSPECTS AHEAD

On the field, Arizona United and their coach Yallop will want to focus on solidifying the defense. Only six clean sheets throughout the 2016 season showcase a need for United to improve defensive midfield positions and backline roles.

Off the field, ownership will want to work towards improving attendance at the Peoria Sports Complex. A strong crowd of 3,374 took in an April match against the Portland Timbers 2, but average home attendance was below 1,500 (1,470).

With aspirations of eventually bringing an MLS side to the Phoenix area, the ownership group that includes recording artists Diplo and Pete Wentz from the band Fall Out Boy will be keen on searching for a new venue in the coming years.

In 2017, the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) welcomes a new team starting up in the Valley. The fourth tier league will see FC Arizona play their home games in Mesa.

Despite playing a level below United and the USL, it will be interesting to see how this will affect attendance and local interest.

Since taking over from the doomed Phoenix FC franchise in 2014, Arizona United have not yet made the USL playoffs. But with a proven winner in Frank Yallop leading the club forward, the team’s performances in 2017 and beyond are bound to pick up in a big way.

Photo credit: Arizona United SC

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