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Arizona United SC 2016 USL Season Preview

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Carl Woszczynski
Carl Woszczynski
Michael Rincon/Viper Photos

Year founded: 2014
Affiliation: Independent
2015 record, standing in playoffs: 10-16-2, 10th West
2015 playoffs: DNQ

Key additions: Gibson Bardsley, Chris Cortez, Julian Ringhof, Blair Gavin, Sam Garza
Key departures: Tyler Ruthven, Dennis Chin, Jonathan Top
Projected/ideal starting XI: Woszczynski, Rosales, Ringhof, Uzo, Antunez, Gavin, Timm, Garza, Kelly, Tan, Cortez; (At the time of this writing, at least two unnamed signings are still forthcoming)

Two years ago last week, the USL awarded the just-vacated franchise rights of Phoenix FC to local entrepreneur and sports media veteran Kyle Eng. Vaunted for business savvy and the impressive accomplishment of fielding an entire organization - from GM to ticket takers - in just three weeks, the club quickly became darlings of the USL front office. This is a results-oriented business, however, and two poor seasons on the field hastened major changes.

This certainly isn't your older brother's Arizona United.

Managerial and financial muscle were added, most visibly (and audibly) from DJ/producer/social media star Diplo and his corps of backers. The club's first head coach, Michael Dellorusso, was rightly acknowledged for his contributions to the birth of the club but was not brought back for this season. Instead, two-time MLS Coach of the Year Frank Yallop will lead the way. The roster saw a near-total overhaul, and though pre-season results were mixed, optimism in the desert, among die-hards at least, is high once again.

Why you should watch Arizona United in 2016

Frank Yallop. Say what you will about his most recent results in Major League Soccer, but when given the reins, the man knows how to win. He has been given an exceptional amount of control in the organization, and his three-year contract signals that his vision is supported by ownership. With weapons at his disposal which were perhaps underutilized in the past, this has the potential to be an exciting team.

3 Players to watch

Carl Woszczynski: After leading the league last year in both saves and goals allowed, an upgraded outfield in 2016 could allow Woz to prove his worth as one of the top keepers in the league.

Long Tan: The club's all-time leading scorer will either have even more chances on goal this year, or provide the hold-up play to spring new teammates Gibson Bardsley and Chris Cortez.

Blair Gavin: The local product enjoyed a career renaissance at Timbers 2 in 2015, and his steady midfield presence could unlock the play of everyone around him.

The 2016 season will be a success if...

The club completes a winning season with a playoff appearance. A hastily-assembled inaugural team was largely forgiven for missing the playoffs in 2014, but the 2015 unit, which included many proven producers given a full off-season to prepare, fared similarly. In order to sustain momentum and goodwill established by ownership, and to ensure the continued viability of the club with a tepid fanbase, United has to put a winner on the field, and it has to be now.

www.arizonaunited.com

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