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2022 SEASON PREVIEW - Western Conference

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 03/04/22, 5:00PM EST


Crowded field of contenders sees returning favorites, and potential for major bounce-back seasons

We’re just over a week away from the start of the 2022 USL Championship season, and after looking at the clubs in the Eastern Conference, today it’s the turn of the Western Conference’s clubs to get their turn in the spotlight.

Home of the defending title holder Orange County SC, which emerged as the Western Conference title winner after an upset-filled postseason that saw both Phoenix Rising FC and El Paso Locomotive FC eliminate in the Western Conference Quarterfinals after topping their respective divisions, the West feels more open this season than it might have in recent campaigns.

Part of that could be attributed to the changes that have occurred at both Phoenix and El Paso. For Rising FC, a new era begins in 2022 after the departure during the offseason of two-time Championship Most Valuable Player Solomon Asante, although with both 2021 All-League First Team selections Santi Moar and Aodhan Quinn back to lead the way there will be no shortage of quality for the two-time Western Conference title-winners. At Locomotive FC, the major change is on the sideline with 2021 Coach of the Year finalist Mark Lowry making the move to Indy Eleven after establishing a firm foundation for the club over its first three seasons.

Orange County, meanwhile, added the biggest name of the offseason in former Mexico international Erick “Cubo” Torres, and with standout young forward Ronaldo Damus, veteran center back Michael Orozco and playoff hero Patrick Rakovsky back once again the defending champions are looking in good shape on paper as the season approaches. The side OCSC defeated in a penalty shootout to win the Western Conference, San Antonio FC, also looks well stocked again even with the transfer of homegrown standout Jose Gallegos to Europe.

There’s going to be plenty of competition from elsewhere in the conference, too, with Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC and San Diego Loyal SC both aiming to build on strong campaigns that took both to the postseason. How 2021 Championship MVP Hadji Barry follows up his record-tying season in front of goal with a bolstered supporting cast at the Switchbacks will be worth following closely as Colorado Springs takes aim at its first silverware.

After Oakland Roots SC’s first-season success a year ago, expansion side Monterey Bay F.C. will also be hoping to have a major impact in its first season at Cardinale Stadium. One of the two most interesting teams to follow this season, though, could be the league’s third NorCal club, with Sacramento Republic FC having reloaded impressively on paper with some big new names coming aboard. The other is New Mexico United, which like Sacramento is looking to wipe away the disappointment of missing the postseason for the first time a season ago and has bulked up its roster with the likes of Neco Brett and others in free agency.

For details on where each club stands currently, click through to find out more.

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