FIRST IN A SERIES
Anthony Wells, an Ariz.-based correspondent for UPSL Soccer Hub, takes a team-by-team look at the upcoming UPSL Spring 2018 Season.
A news anchor at KYMA-11 in Yuma, Ariz., Anthony will be writing about the UPSL Southwest Conference this season for UPSL Soccer Hub. You can find him @anthonyKYMA11 on Twitter.
Teams listed in alphabetical order:
Arizona Scorpions: Returning after a one season hiatus, the Scorpions are currently the only team reigning out of Phoenix in the UPSL. Last time around in the Spring of 2017 they finished at the bottom of the Arizona Conference and are hoping this will be the season to affirm themselves as one of the top dogs in the Grand Canyon State.
FC Grande: Currently the only UPSL team fighting out of New Mexico, FC Grande is the team looking to put the small town of Las Cruces on the map. 21-year-old Alex Ruiz, owner of FC Grande and a Business Major at New Mexico State, will be making his dream true when they kick off Spring play. It took Ruiz over 70 local players and two days of tryouts at a local park to put this team together. Let’s see what they can produce on the field.
Las Vegas City FC: Certainly one of the more consistent teams out of Nevada and usually with a mid- to lower-table finish, Las Vegas City FC will be hoping this is their year to make an impact in the UPSL, although the question remains on how head coach Cheo Ruiz will be able to build this team’s chemistry given tryouts were held earlier in February. They had a bit of an up-and-down 2017 Fall Season in the Desert Mountain Conference, finishing the regular season in fifth with only four wins.
MSC United: Another team coming out of the great State of Arizona, MSC United certainly has it down when it comes to its youth academy. In its first season in the UPSL, the question remains on whether MSC United can translate all that training, intensity and experience from its years of running a successful youth club to its first team endeavors as well.
Southwest FC Wolves: Playing out of El Paso, Texas, the Wolves also are one of the many additions this season to the UPSL. A great example of a team that has embraced its local talent, much of its team is made up of players from local high schools and colleges – both from El Paso and Ciudad Juarez. Head coach Endy Gonzalez has done a good job so far with this team. In the first and only pre-season friendly, the Wolves went to New Mexico and put on a good showing against the more consolidated Albuquerque Sol despite a 2-1 loss.
Sporting Arizona FC: Certainly the most respected team fighting out of Arizona, if not the entire Southwest Conference. They bring with them a heritage that is unrivaled in the UPSL; MLS stars Roger Espinoza – now at Sporting Kansas City – and Nick De Leon – now at D.C. United – once wore Sporting’s jerseys. In their first season in the UPSL last spring, they topped the Arizona Conference by a long shot in the regular season and have advanced out of the qualifying rounds for a place in the 2018 U.S. Open Cup. This team does have a couple of high-profile names on its roster – such as keeper Andrew Weber who won the MLS Cup with the Portland Timbers in 2015 and Alejandro Aguilar who made it as far as representing the Costa Rican national team. Definitely one of the favorites.
Summerlin Red Rocks FC: The Red Rocks are the ones tasked with consolidating the small town of Summerlin as one of the soccer powers of Nevada. Although they’re debuting in the UPSL this Spring, they do have a few seasoned figures behind them. On their Board of Advisors is Rusty Piece who has eight seasons of MLS play to bring to the table. The club is owned by Lamont Daryl Harris, a banker, a “Top 40 Under 40” African American businessman in the Las Vegas Valley and a former two-time all-state player in Maryland. As is often the case, a strong administration is the bedrock to a successful season on the pitch. We’ll soon find out if that’s the case here.