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SOCCER

Expectations raised for second-year FC Arizona

By - May 02, 2018

By Madisen Carter/For The Sporting Nation

Soccer team FC Arizona, in its second season, is not starting as strong as it had hoped after an outstanding debut season.
 
FC Arizona went 13-0-4 in their debut season and was named the Southwest Conference champion, but lost in the second round of the playoffs.  
 
“We were unreal last year,” said FC Arizona’s owner and manager, Scott Taylor.
 
Currently, FC Arizona is 3-2-1 in the middle of their second season, and owner Scott Taylor believes it is because the chemistry is not as strong as it should be.
 
There are only three players that returned from last year’s team. Although most of the team is from Maricopa County, the other half of the team is from places out of the country such as Mexico, Ireland and Chile, and they all speak different languages.
 
“Any time you put that amount of guys together that haven’t played together, it takes a little while to get that chemistry going,” Taylor said. “We need more team chemistry, we need to do more team building.”   
 
FC Arizona’s biggest win was the first game of the season when they beat Galati FC 6-0. In the rest of their games whether it was a win, loss or tie, FC Arizona has not put up more than three goals per game. 
 
 “It’s a whole new group, new players, new coach; it’s a different chemistry,” said FC Arizona player Jose Rodriguez. “It’s taking a while for us to get used to playing with each other.  So getting that chemistry going is the biggest difficulty.” 
 
Taylor and the coaching staff understand that the chemistry of the team needs to be better. To do that, Taylor said he wants the team to start having team bonding and building outside of the soccer stadium, such as going out to team dinners and even bowling nights. 
 
Although FC Arizona’s second season didn’t start as well as many would have liked, head coach Maxi Viera believes that if the players know their roles and know what they need to do, they will be successful.
 
“Everyone has an exceptional role to play, and I’m building for them to give that 100 percent. If we are not practicing the way we are going to play, it’s difficult to get that 100 percent,” Viera said. “Everybody needs to know what they need to do, and that way I can learn from them, and I can help them get better.”
 
Viera also explained how the team now must start from zero, especially with him being a first-year coach with the team. Last year the team was more compacted and together, and throughout this season Viera plans for the team to get back to that place. 
 
“The main focus is that all the different personalities and characteristics blend together, everybody needs to understand that sometimes you’re going to do good and sometimes you’re not,” Viera said. “They need to keep working with an objective and keep the goal. With what we have, we can still build it up.” 
 
As of now, there are still eight games left in the season. Viera believes that the team still has plenty of time to improve, and build something that is going to last in the upcoming seasons.
 
“We are getting better as we play and as we create an identity,” Viera said. “We are always open to what is coming in the future.” 
 
With thoughts of the future, FC Arizona wants its name to be the first soccer team fans think of when they hear about soccer in Arizona. 
 
With Phoenix Rising FC being Arizona’s highest level of professional soccer -- that team went 17-8-7 in the 2017 season -- FC Arizona has competition to be the soccer team fans want to go see. 
 
Phoenix Rising has been in the United Soccer League for four years (also as Arizona United SC) and has been around longer than FC Arizona, giving them a larger fan base. Their soccer stadium is located in Tempe, Arizona called the Phoenix Rising FC Soccer Complex, and they averaged 6,127 people a match in their 2017 season.  
 
FC Arizona does not have their own soccer stadium yet. As of now, they currently play at John D. Riggs Stadium at Mesa Community College, and still, sometimes that facility is not available every Saturday when they play. For example, on April 14, they played at Westwood High School in Mesa. 
 
Since FC Arizona’s revenue mostly comes from ticket sales, the players do not get paid like most professional soccer players do. Almost every player on the soccer team has an outside job that they mostly rely on for their income. 
 
“We know that this team is not a full-time job, most of the guys work outside of this,” said FC Arizona defender Jamie Olabarria, who works in marketing for the Phoenix Suns.
 
Others on the team, such as Ryan Scarpulla, balance practice and games with a job outside of soccer.  Also, he is a full-time student at Arizona Christian University. 
 
Taylor believes FC Arizona are well known throughout Arizona. To help continue keeping the team relevant, they put on youth soccer camps, and help train the younger generation of soccer players.
 
“We have a marketing team that goes out on the youth soccer fields and brings postcards,” Taylor said. “We do a lot on social media, especially Facebook and Twitter.”
 
Another way the team is trying to promote themselves is by selling merchandise at the games and on their website. They sell home jerseys for $80 a piece. 
 
FC Arizona has a fan group called Rampants Supporters, who attend every game and are always loud for the team. The chant “F-C A-Z,” is roared throughout the stadium as the FC Arizona team walks out. Flag holders bang the flags to make a loud boom to make their presence known. 
 
“It gets us motivated every time we go play,” said Rodriguez. “They scream and call our names out so it’s a motivation to us to score more goals and to keep putting energy in the game; it’s incredible.”
 
Not only do the Rampants motivate the players, but it also motivates Taylor. 
 
“We appreciate the fans that we have, and we know they’re excited and they love coming out,” Taylor said. “That’s honestly what keeps me motivated to do this, it’s a lot of work, you can only imagine.”
 
The Rampants plan to continue to grow and give FC Arizona more recognition as the team grows in the upcoming seasons. 
 
“We are always looking for more people to join,” said Josh Simpson, the Vice President of the Rampants Supporters. “People hear us during the games, come down, and join us cheering on the team.” 
 
This year is FC Arizona’s second year in the National Premier Soccer League. The NPSL has a total of 98 teams in 13 different divisions within four main conferences. 
 
FC Arizona is in the Southwest Division within the Western Conference. It is accompanied by many teams that are located in Southern California, such as the Riverside Coras, Temecula FC and ASC San Diego. 
 
FC Arizona is the NPSL’s first Arizona soccer team. Now that the league has one team in the state, it plans to expand throughout the four corner states, according to NPSL managing director, Cindy Spera. 
 
“FC Arizona had been a hugely successful organization,” Spera said. “They have brought the league success in terms of getting our brand out to that area and setting the standards for teams who are interested in joining.”
 
To be selected into the NPSL, FC Arizona, along with all the other teams in the league, had to go through a selective expansion application process.
 
“Teams submit a comprehensive business plan, financial budget and secured funding, a stadium agreement, and a media and promotion strategy,” Spera said. 
 
Since the NPSL is a non-profit league, players are considered “members,” and help the league review the applications and put in their feedback. According to Spera, the members “are a key part of the expansion process.”
 
For a first year team in the NPSL, FC Arizona gets help from the league all throughout the season. The league helps prepare members for the season and supports them throughout the year. The team will have a registration manager assigned by the NPSL to help manage risk.
 
By next season, FC Arizona is expected to have all operations smoothed out and most importantly “understand the financial commitment and what it takes to manage a professionally run organization,” Spera said. 
 
As of right now, FC Arizona is currently in fourth place in the Southwest Conference out of seven teams. They will travel to Rio Hondo College in California to play Golden State FC on May 5. 
 
FC Arizona’s main goal is to become the conference champion for the second year in a row. A bigger goal after that is the national championship. Taylor knows that it will be a lot of work and it will take dedication from all the players to get there. 
 
“It’s bigger than one person; it’s about the community,” Taylor said. 

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