Top Moments of 2016

A lot happened in Arizona United SC's third season in USL with the entire year highlighted by three major events: the club hiring two-time MLS Cup champion Frank Yallop prior to the 2016 season, a new, Phoenix-based ownership group taking over the team just before season's end, and the launch of the organization's new brand: Phoenix Rising Football Club. Any one of those three events would make a season memorable, but in between them there were a myriad of moments, some joyous and some bitter, that made 2016 a season to remember. The year may not have ended with a trip to the postseason, but it does end with a bright future for the club moving to 2017.

Arizona United Hires Frank Yallop

With a loud "bang" in the dead of the offseason, Arizona United SC kicked off 2016 with the announcement that two-time MLS Cup and MLS Coach of the Year Frank Yallop was the club's new coach and president of soccer operations.

"Entering our third season of play, we wanted to show our fans and our players that we were committed to putting a winning and championship product on the field, and we couldn’t think of a better way to communicate it than hiring someone like Frank Yallop."

Yallop career highlights

  • Sixteen-year playing career
  • 52 appearances with the Canadian national team
  • Six years in top-flight English soccer
  • Two-time MLS Defender of the Year
  • Two-time MLS Cup Champion
  • Two-time MLS Coach of the Year
“I want this thing built properly and built to last. That’s the plan.”

Diplo invests in Arizona United

Arizona United continued to make offseason news when the club announced that Grammy-winning music producer and DJ Diplo was investing in the team.

"I wanted to figure out a way to get involved with the game and team sports so when Arizona United presented itself, I immediately jumped at the opportunity. I see soccer the same way I see music, as a connective tissue linking the world’s cultures."

Arizona United SC hits the pitch for the first time in 2016

“Soccer is a family sport. Guys get on the ball and then you learn each other’s tendencies and you get to know the guys off the field. And that definitely helps translate to the pitch. I’m just excited to get going.”

Fall Out Boy bassist Pete Wentz joins Arizona United investment group

In one last offseason surprise before the beginning of the season, Arizona United announced the addition of Pete Wentz to the club's list of investors. Said Diplo:

"Pete’s a fantastic person to have with us not only because he’s a huge soccer fan and played the game at a high level, he’s also an active philanthropist on a global level. Pete is a perfect match for the type of investor our team wants as we continue to grow in the USL and begin our strong push to take Arizona United to MLS. The state of Arizona and city of Phoenix deserve nothing less."

Arizona United hosts the U20 Mexican National Team

In a first for Arizona United, the club played an international match at home against the U20 Mexican National Team. The future of El Tri was on display and United fought hard in a 2-1 loss to the national team.

"It was a great opportunity for their fans to come out and see us play and see them play,” said goalkeeper Carl Woszczynski. “(It’s a good chance for) our fans to come out and see us in our home venue and for us to get a look at the home venue."

Scott Morrison retires from soccer

Prior to Arizona United's home opener, former defender Scott Morrison announced his retirement from professional soccer. Morrison was the only player to suit up in all four years of USL soccer in Phoenix, acting as a bridge from the old Phoenix FC to the current Arizona United SC.

"Scott Morrison helped professional soccer grow in the Valley."

Morrison ended his Arizona United career having played 3,883 minutes in 54 appearances from 2014-2016. Both club records at the time of his retirement.

"It is with a heavy heart that I have decided to retire from playing professional soccer. For as long as I can remember I only ever wished to be professional soccer player so it has been a dream to make this a reality."

Arizona United Defeats FC Tucson in U.S. Open Cup

In its two previous seasons, Arizona United had never matched up with fellow Arizona club FC Tucson. That changed in 2016 when the clubs met twice. The first was just a preseason friendly, a 3-1 Arizona United win. But the second meeting had much more at stake: advancing to the third round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. Despite a few nervy moments in the first half hour of the match, Arizona United opened the floodgates en route to a 5-0 win over FC Tucson.

Arizona United Sets Club Record by Scoring a Goal in 17 Straight Matches

It began with a Luke Rooney wonder goal from distance against OC Blues FC on May 14 in Southern California and ended with Tyler Blackwood punishing a Whitecaps FC 2 turnover on August 21. Seventeen straight matches with at least a goal scored. Some of the year's most impressive goals occurred during that streak, none better than a Rooney rocket in San Antonio on August 17.

Arizona United in the Community

As the players performed on the pitch, they also enjoyed their time off it, hanging out with the local community through free youth clinics and visits to schools and libraries. Even in weeks following a tough loss, Arizona United players looked forward to each encounter with local youth soccer players and fans across the Valley. As the club continues to grow, the small interactions between players and their fans will always be an integral part of the players' lives.

"One of my favorite things about the game is giving back. We've all been through this, doing clinics as kids and working hard all the way up through to the level we're at now. Doing this for the kids is great and to have the opportunity to do this for the kids is incredible."
Team captain Blair Gavin speaks to eager campers prior to one of Arizona United's free youth clinics with Boost Mobile.
Midfielder Nick Costa speaks with a group of local soccer players during their training session.
Goalkeeper Jordan Stagmiller has fun with a tiny soccer star during the P83 Party at Peoria Sports Complex.
Assistant coach Scotty Morrison offers some shooting advice at Dia de los Niños in downtown Phoenix.
Head coach Frank Yallop (far left), along with forwards Long Tan (left) and Chris Cortez (right), speak to players at Anthem Soccer Club.

Take Us Out To The Ballgame!

On September 10, Arizona United helped the Arizona Diamondbacks celebrate Hispanic Heritage Night. In addition to taking in a game, the team got to spend a little time on the field and was recognized by the Diamondbacks on the scoreboard!

Luke Rooney (left) and Brock Granger have a good time as the team walks onto the field prior to being honored by the Diamondbacks.

Rooney and Kelly Score Best Goals of the Year

Forget what the league's other fans may say. When it comes to the best goals of the year, very few players could come close to matching the highlight-reel-worthy goals of midfielder Luke Rooney and defender Peter Kelly.

Rooney smashed a shot off a volley with his left foot (his off foot) to beat the LA Galaxy II goalkeeper to the top-right corner of the net. It was enough for a shoutout from Fox Sports.

Kelly's goal was the culmination of a field-length buildup that required just three total touches before hitting the back of the net. Oh, and the ball never touched the ground. The goal was No. 7 in USL's Top 10 moments of 2016 montage during halftime of the USL Cup Final.

Arizona United Announces New Ownership Group

The next chapter of the Arizona United story began on August 31 when the club announced a brand new ownership group featuring leading Phoenix-based business men. While previous investors Diplo, Pete Wentz, Brett M. Johnson, Kevin Kusatsu, and David Rappaport remained on board the new ownership group includes Berke Bakay, Mark Detmer, Tim Riester, Dave Sterns, Jim Scussel, Richard Hauser, and Brandon McCarthy. The club also announced a new team president: David Farca.

"We couldn’t be more excited at the opportunity we have with Arizona United by bringing together a who’s who of business leaders in the Phoenix area," said Berke Bakay. “Soccer has always been in my blood. My interest and involvement in the soccer world has been positively influenced by one of my uncles serving as the Vice-Chairman of the famed Galatasaray club in Istanbul."
  • Bakay has been the CEO and President of Kona Grill since January 2012 and is the Founder of BBS Capital Management. Kona Grill, is a publicly traded restaurant chain listed on the NASDAQ (KONA) headquartered in Scottsdale with 41 locations in 21 states and Puerto Rico.
  • As Managing Director of JLL, Detmer serves as Head of Industrial Capital Markets for the West Region of the United States and specializes in commercial real estate services and investment management.
  • Since founding RIESTER in Phoenix during 1989, Riester has been the firm’s CEO and chief activist. Under his leadership, RIESTER was listed on the Inc. 500 list of fastest growing companies in America for four consecutive years, Advertising Age listed the firm among the “20 Agencies to Watch in America,” and Forbes named RIESTER among the “Top 100 Global Ad Agencies That Know Social Media and Google.”
  • Stearns is a Co-Founder of Connect Wireless, which has more than 70 locations in seven western states, and currently serves as the company’s Chief Executive Officer. He has created, bought or sold 14 different companies throughout his career.
  • Scussel co-founded Four Peaks Brewing Company in 1996 and grew it into the leading craft brewer in the state of Arizona. Four Peaks was acquired by Anheuser-Busch in 2015.
  • Hauser founded Capital Real Estate, Inc., a commercial real estate services company based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 2001. The operations of Capital Real Estate, Inc. and its related entities encompass a full range of real estate related services, including land acquisition, land development, retail development, net lease development, construction and general contracting, and both internal and external investment holdings and market disposition of commercial properties.
  • McCarthy, whose primary residence is in Phoenix, is a veteran of 11 Major League Baseball seasons and has pitched for the Los Angeles Dodgers since 2015.
  • Johnson is Founder and Managing Partner of Benevolent Capital. He has led numerous successful technology businesses including: Zealot Networks, Forward Industries, and Targus, the leading global provider of mobile computing solutions.

Thank You Kyle

Following the announcement of the club's new ownership, Arizona United honored club founder Kyle Eng and his family with a prematch ceremony to thank him for keeping professional soccer in the Valley.

“Launching Arizona United SC, the state’s only professional soccer franchise, ranks among my career highlights. When we created the club in 2014, I envisioned a role as caretaker of a soccer side that would be a source of pride for the community. But I always planned to pass the torch to new owners who have a deeper passion for this great sport."

Thank You Supporters!

Through thick and thin, you've been with us every step of the way (and even on the road!) Sticking around to speak with players after matches always ensures that the last moments on the pitch are positive ones for the players. We couldn't ask for a better group of supporters and we cannot wait to begin the 2017 season.

A new era begins...

On November 28, 2016, the organization announced it had rebranded to Phoenix Rising Football Club. And a new era in professional soccer was born. In addition to the the new name and logo, the club also announced a brand new home, the Phoenix Rising FC Soccer Complex. The team's new home will be located near the intersection of the 202 Highway and McClintock Road. The club will not only have a new look in 2017; it'll have a home to call its own.

An artist rendering of the club's future permanent home. Phoenix Rising FC will play in a smaller, pop up stadium for the 2017 season.
Moments from the Phoenix Rising FC launch, Diplo's appearance with Men in Blazers, and Berke Bakay's interview with Brad Cesmat.
See You in 2017!
Created By
H. Jose Bosch
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