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Phoenix Rising FC 2021 Season Preview

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 04/22/21, 5:00PM EDT


Having twice claimed the Championship's Western Conference Title, Phoenix Rising FC enters the 2021 season with its sights firmly set on winning its first USL Championship Final. | Photo courtesy Phoenix Rising FC

2021 Outlook

Phoenix Rising FC claimed the Western Conference Title for the second time in three seasons, and while they were made to work hard for their success – being taken to penalty shootouts twice and extra time in all three postseason contests – on paper the club will enter the new season as the favorites to reach the USL Championship Final from the conference.

There have been changes, however, with 2020 Golden Boot-winner Junior Flemmings now with Birmingham Legion FC. Also departed is standout young defender Corey Whelan, who joined Wigan Athletic, as well as AJ Cochran, who moved to Indy Eleven, and Damion Lowe, now competing for Al Ittihad Alexandria Club in Egypt. Phoenix’s back line will take a different form this season, then, with Noah Billingsley (Minnesota United FC) and Jeremy Kelly (Colorado Rapids) arriving on loan from Major League Soccer clubs, and new signings Deklan Wynne and Tobi Adewole both bringing solid professional experience.

What will remain consistent, though, is the likely output of Phoenix’s attack. Led by now two-time Championship Most Valuable Player Solomon Asante, Rising FC also got strong production from newcomer Rufat Dadashov in his first year at the club, while Santi Moar will have the chance to build on what was an excellent second half of the campaign that saw him end with eight assists across the regular season and playoffs. Add in the arrival of Aodhan Quinn from Orange County SC and the club’s new home at Wild Horse Pass should be one of the toughest places to visit once again this season.

Notable Arrivals

Aodhan Quinn, Midfielder: Playmaker arrives from Orange County with sterling reputation

Andre Rawls, Goalkeeper: Loanee from the Colorado Rapids could compete with Zac Lubin for starts

Arturo Rodriguez, Midfielder: 2019 USL League One MVP makes move west from North Texas SC

Noah Billingsley, Defender: New Zealand international joins fellow Kiwis James Musa, Deklan Wynne

Notable Departures

Junior Flemmings: Signed with Birmingham Legion FC

Corey Whelan: Signed with Wigan Athletic

AJ Cochran: Signed with Indy Eleven

Damion Lowe: Signed with Al Ittihad Alexandria Club (Egypt)

Two To Watch

The second two-time winner of the Championship's Most Valuable Player award, Solomon Asante has been Phoenix Rising FC's talisman since he arrived at the club prior to the 2018 season. | Photo courtesy Grace Stufkosky / Phoenix Rising FC

Solomon Asante, Forward

There have been several notable contributors to Phoenix Rising FC’s success over the past three seasons, but none more consistent than Solomon Asante. The Ghanaian forward has recorded 41 goals and 34 assists in 78 regular-season games over the past three seasons, and last year came through in the postseason with two crucial goals on the side’s run to the Western Conference Title. Voted the Championship’s Most Valuable Player for a second consecutive year, Asante will be front and center once again in 2021.

Aodhan Quinn, Midfielder

The arrival of Aodhan Quinn at Phoenix Rising FC could feel like an example of the rich getting richer in the Western Conference with the former Championship MVP Finalist bringing a tremendous resume to the desert. A centerpiece for Orange County SC over the past three seasons, Quinn’s ability to create from midfield – both in open play and from set pieces – has put him among the best in the Championship. Working in Phoenix’s attacking system could produce more big numbers – and success – for the California native.


Phoenix Rising FC Head Coach Rick Schantz is looking for the club's fourth piece of silverware in four seasons at the helm, with the ultimate goal of winning the USL Championship Final at the top of the list. | Photo courtesy Grace Stufkosky / Phoenix Ris

Rick Schantz (4th Season)

Since taking the reins on the sideline as an interim appointment midway through the 2018 season, all Rick Schantz has done is lead Phoenix Rising FC to silverware at the end of every campaign. While blessed with some outstanding on-field talent, Schantz has harnessed those abilities to produce maximum effect, winning 46 of 69 regular season games since his appointment. The only thing that remains is to lift the trophy at the USL Championship Final, which will be firmly in Schantz and Rising FC’s sights this year.

Key Number

29.86 Since the start of the 2018 Championship regular season, Phoenix Rising FC has outperformed its Expected Goals total by 29.86 goals, tallying 192 times, excluding own goals. Continuing that rich vein of form in front of net will be a key to sustained on-field success this year.

Possible Lineup

Projected Finish: First Place, Pacific Division

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