Danny Trejo's arrival at Phoenix Rising FC brings the club clinical finisher in the Championship from a season ago, but also a well-rounded player who can contibute beyond goals. | Photo courtesy Ivan Pierre Aguirre / El Paso Locomotive FC
Phoenix Rising FC made a big splash on Thursday with the signing of forward Danny Trejo ahead of the 2023 USL Championship season. The former Las Vegas Lights FC and Los Angeles FC striker – who claimed the Championship’s Player of the Month award in March last season – joined Head Coach Juan Guerra’s side for the new campaign.
Trejo is set to be a key component for the two-time Western Conference title winner as it looks to surge back up the standings. Here are three ways he can impact Rising FC.
One of the hallmarks of Danny Trejo’s 2022 season with Las Vegas Lights FC was his consistency in hitting the target with the chances he was offered. Among players who scored at least 10 goals in the Championship’s regular season, Trejo ranked second only to 2022 USL Championship Most Valuable Player Leo Fernandes in shooting accuracy, putting 70.6 percent of his un-blocked efforts on target.
That produced a shot conversion rate of 27.5 percent, above average among the same 10+ goalscorers. It’s the sort of clinical finishing Rising FC got during Rufat Dadashov’s time at the club, and ahead of players like Junior Flemmings and Adam Jahn when they earned All-League honors in Phoenix. That’s the caliber of player Trejo is capable of being this season.
One of the essential elements for modern forwards is the ability to help set a side’s defensive shape, and in the right situations establish the press. With Las Vegas, Trejo showed a good ability to be that player. Among his contemporaries with at least 10 goals in the 2022 season, he ranked in the Top 10 in interceptions (7th / 13), recoveries (9th / 109) and possession won in the final third (T-7th / 25).
In the Championship a season ago, Rising FC was an average team when it came to winning possession in attacking areas. Collectively, the club won possession in the final third 162 times with the league average at 161.2. The two teams that contested the Championship Final? They sat at No. 1 (Louisville City FC, 250) and No. 2 (San Antonio FC, 221) respectively, a sign of how important that element can be to a club’s success.
Thanks to Trejo’s attacking presence, Las Vegas Lights FC came the closest to reaching the playoffs it had in its history, finishing only a point out of the top seven. He was one of only six players in the league to record at least 14 goals and five assists in the regular season, and averaged 0.75 goals+assists per 90 minutes, all while shuttling back and forth between Lights FC and Major League Soccer’s Los Angeles FC.
In games in which Trejo played, Las Vegas took 11 of its 12 victories, averaged 1.4 points-per-game, and almost doubled its average goals-per-game mark (1.3 with to 0.7 without). If Las Vegas had kept that pace for a full season, the numbers say it would have been above the playoffs line, with Trejo’s all-around performance being the biggest reason why. As Phoenix looks to rise from the ashes in 2023, the 24-year-old looks set to be a major reason why.