Soccer in the United States continues to grow and change seemingly with each passing year. A new club that is looking to make a major impact in 2017 and beyond is FC Arizona of the National Premier Soccer League.
FC Arizona: The Launch Of A Club With Owner Scott Taylor
Competing in the Southwest Conference of the NPSL’s West Region, the club will play its home matches at John Riggs Stadium in Mesa. The stadium is located on the campus of Mesa Community College. From launch parties to community engagement, FC Arizona have been focused on building a club both on and off the field.
Last Word On Sports spoke with team owner Scott Taylor about the formation of FC Arizona and what the club’s goals are moving forward.
Roy Emanuel: “What were your motivations and inspirations behind the formation of FC Arizona?”
Scott Taylor: “The club comes from a love of the game. I’m not an opportunist. I don’t see it as a way to get rich, it is something that I look to provide to the local community.
And on the personal side, I want to see good local professional soccer in the Valley and experience the game at a high level. In my opinion, that was lacking here. I think areas like Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa and Ahwatukee were hungry for this.
I’ve been working for the past two years on how to accomplish this objective, and I also want a club that’s going to be sustainable. I want to make sure that the organization is financially secure, so that when people buy season tickets they know that the team will still be here next year.
I love the game and I’m a true fan. I’ll be in the stands cheering just like anybody else. It’s an incredible game. It’s like a chess match. Each side has the same amount of players and there is a strategic, tactical battle. It is amazing to see what these guys can do out on the field. I think the East Valley is already starting to get excited about it.”
RE: “Obviously you wanted to bring a team to the Valley, but was there anything specific that drew you to the Mesa area?”
ST: “I felt that the East Valley was where it really needed to be. Besides MLB spring training, the East Valley does not have as much it should. I love the East Valley and I love the state of Arizona.
We are planning exhibition games in Prescott, Show Low and Flagstaff. It’s a beautiful state. I am not an out-of-town investor. This is my home.”
RE: “How has the reaction been from the local community for FC Arizona?”
ST: “It has been really good, and it’s been something that we’ve nourished and worked on. We will continue to do that. I think people are happy and impressed that we are bringing in a lot of local guys. Fans will feel a real connection in that regard.
We just signed a reserve goalkeeper recently from New York, Vincent Pellegrino. He played for the Long Island Rough Riders. But it is nice to have a good amount of Arizona players. And kudos to the local soccer community for developing the talent here. They certainly deserve a lot of credit.
We want to be part of and help to add to the soccer culture in Arizona. Every week we can watch teams in England and in Spain, but I felt like it was time that we write our own chapter of the story.”
RE: “What was it that drew you towards hiring Aidan Davison as head coach and what do you think he will bring to the club?”
ST: “I met Aidan through a colleague and we truly went on an international search for him. We were all so impressed with his acumen and his pedigree. But what impressed me the most was his desire to be involved with the community.
He really had an honest interest in helping us build this club. He wanted to know about the Chamber of Commerce and the local youth clubs. He really wanted to be a part of what we were doing.
It is all about the community. Without the fans, you don’t have a club. We are excited to have Aidan here. On the field, he is one of the most underrated coaches in America. He has truly flown under the radar. And just as importantly, he is a great human being.”
RE: “What are your expectations for results in 2017?”
ST: “We want to be the first professional soccer team in Arizona to make the playoffs. That is our goal, and we are going to do everything possible to achieve that.”
RE: “The signing of goalkeeper Andrew Weber provides MLS experience to the squad. What do you think he will be able to bring to the team and to some of the younger players on the roster?”
ST: “I’ve seen Andrew with some of the young guys and he is phenomenal. He’s a leader and a true voice on the field.
He is going to be great. And to bring in another local player is fantastic. Andrew grew up in Tempe and went to McClintock. He has played at the highest level of American soccer. He knows how to set the tone for the defense and for the entire team as well.”
RE: “With the evolving nature of US Soccer, where are the club’s goals for five or ten years down the line?”
ST: “We want to be an NASL team and I think that the league is going to completely change the business model and its future. I’m not opposed to achieving an MLS level, but I also want to be honest.
Would we like MLS? Of course we would. But it is going to take a lot of hard work and dedication to get there. We feel like we start in the NPSL, make our way to the NASL and see how things go from there.”
RE: “What are your thoughts on Phoenix Rising FC’s rebrand and the recent Division II status of the USL?”
ST: “I want to see soccer succeed in Arizona. It’s all about providing a quality product on the field for the fans. We are focused on what we are doing and our vision.
I think Division II needs to be proven on the field. Without promotion and relegation, it is difficult to say what is Division II and what is Division III. And I realize that it may not happen in the United States, but without that element it is tough to say what each league exactly is.
I want to put the most competitive squad out on the field each and every week.”
RE: “After the inaugural season, are there stadium plans in mind?”
ST: “Yes, there certainly are. We know the location we want to be in, and when the time comes the plans will be announced.
It will be privately-owned land, a quality stadium and will have a roof.”
RE: “How have you enjoyed the NPSL experience thus far?”
ST: “I think it is a very good organization. It is a “multi-purpose” league. What I mean by that is that some clubs use the league for development and there are some teams that want more than that. It is very regionalized. For example, our schedule in the Southwest Conference will start much earlier than in the Midwest.
It’s a great league, and I think the commissioner Joe Barone is a good man. There are quite a few success stories, like Detroit City. The 2015 final with Chattanooga FC and the New York Cosmos [B] drew 20,000 people. A lot of players like Kwadwo Poku and Chris Wondolowski have come through this league and gone on to achieve great success.
I’m impressed with the NPSL board and I think they are accomplishing a lot of good things for American soccer.”