ASC San Diego
One of the most successful squads in the NPSL Southwest, Albion Soccer Club was crowned 2018 champions, played in the playoffs, and has displayed strong talent throughout its entire roster. Along with the NPSL season, ASC will be participating in the NPSL Founders Cup in anticipation for the NPSL professional league in 2020. San Diego will finally get its first taste of professional soccer, something the city has been begging for.
En route to being crowned champions, ASC went 9-2-1, scoring 31 goals and allowing 15. The leading goal scorer was Amani Walker who tied as the conference’s golden boot winner with ten goals. The club’s talent didn’t stop with Walker; Dallin Cutler is a San Diego State University alum, Garrett Heine, Felipe Liborio, and ex-MLS player Eric Avila were also part of the team. While it remains to be seen if all of these players will be returning to the squad, one thing is for sure: the Albion Soccer Club of San Diego will continue to develop and bring in talented players.
Developing youth talent is something that Albion SC does in stride. Multiple clubs play underneath the ASC umbrella. There’s the NPSL squad, WPSL team, and multiple academy teams, some of which partake in the U.S. Developmental Academy. ASC’s academy teams continue to provide scholarship opportunities and playing opportunities that can help propel a player to the next level of their career. One alumni of the ASC system is Ari Lassiter, who currently plays professionally for Costa Rican giants Alajuelense and has played in the MLS for the Los Angeles Galaxy.
The toughest challenge last season for ASC was rival Orange County FC. The club’s two losses came at the hands of OCFC in 2-1 and 3-1 losses. Once in the playoffs, ASC would face its dreaded rival once again and the result would mirror that of the regular season. Another 3-1 loss sent the Southwest champions home.
2019 will be an iconic season for the Albion Soccer Club. With stronger competition entering the conference and the Founders Cup competition waiting in the wings, ASC will have to rely on its strong coaching staff led by Ziggy Korytoski and its rowdy supporters that fill Mission Bay Stadium.
A.S. Los Angeles
Welcome to the NPSL Southwest. A.S. Los Angeles was announced in September of 2018 and immediately began preparations for its inaugural season. Originally named Los Angeles United Football Club, the club would undergo its first change at the end of November, due to legal reasons. Since then the club has started acquiring players and building a roster.
The first signing for ASLA was Tré-Daniel Spedding, a Canadian youth international who spent time playing with Surrey United of the BC Premier League. Born in 1999, Tré trained with the Canadian U-15s and has continued his development within the BC Premier League. Tré is a hold-up striker who also has the speed to play on the wings.
Shortly after, ASLA announced the signing of NPSL veteran Alessandro Canale. Canale spent time with Orange County FC as well as playing with the United States National Team for beach soccer. Canale is a cerebral attacker, who always turns up in the right spot and has a knack for finding the final pass. His experience on the field will help lead this new team to success in 2019.
“[Tryouts went] amazingly well. The Los Angeles area’s hidden gems and raw talent came to the field. We have one more tryout Jan 19th and 20th,” said Mary-Beth Sales, Director of Media. The club has identified its coach and will be announcing him in an upcoming press conference, as well as a few additional player signings.
A.S. Los Angeles has begun to check all the boxes before its season kicks off: stadium, coaching staff, and players. All that is left for this club is to continue to develop its brand and work on its fan engagement. The beauty of being a new club like ASLA is the product that is being developed for the field will help dictate the experience the new fans will see throughout 2019 and beyond.
California United Strikers FC
2019 looks to be a special year for the Strikers. After a perfect fall season in the UPSL, Cal United is faced with a new batch of challenges in the NPSL. The club season goes from thirteen matches to twenty matches, plus playing in U.S. Open Cup qualifying and the Founders Cup. One element that has prepared it to be successful in 2019 is the roster strength. Cal United employs players like Chris Klute who has professional experience with the Colorado Rapids, Columbus Crew SC and Portland Timbers; Christian Gordillo who has professional experience in Mexico and who consistently has multi-goal games; and Paolo Cardozo who has played professionally in MLS and Costa Rica and came through the River Plate youth system.
Currently the club is still playing through the UPSL playoffs and has recently been crowned Western Conference champions after defeating future NPSL rival Orange County FC 6-1 in the Western semifinal, then beating Jasa Redwood City 1-0 in the Western final. Not only did Cal win every match, it dominated. In ten matches it scored 53 goals and only allowed one. That one goal would come in match week four after Cal United beat San Diego Premier Pros FC 7-1
The biggest event for any semi-professional or amatuer team is the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. Cal United has traversed through three rounds of qualifying: beating CaliGators FC (SoCal Premier) 6-2, followed by a 2-0 victory over Chula Vista FC (SoCal Premier). In round three of qualification the Strikers faced UPSL rival Cal FC. The game was tied 2-2 when lights shut off in the 89th minute and the game was called off, forcing a replay on January 16th where United lost on penalties to Cal FC.
Most excitement for this club in 2019 will be its play in the Founders Cup. The first test run of the yet unnamed professional league, which launches in 2020. Cal United will be one of the three teams in the Southwest to partake in this event when play starts this fall. The competition will be tough, but the Strikers have continually shown their quality on the pitch and any fan should expect a strong outing from this SoCal side.
City of Angels FC
This Los Angeles based club comes back to the NPSL Southwest after a year on hiatus. This club has a knowledgeable ownership group in PJ Harrison and Joe Sumner. One hire that has helped elevate this club is its Director of Football, Cobi Jones. City of Angels will be entering back into the NPSL in one of the most challenging seasons to date, but hopefully this club can build upon the bright Los Angeles talent and produce a better season than 2017.
Seven of the eleven teams participating in the 2019 season participated back in 2017. After sixteen matches, the Los Angeles club finished with a record of 2-13-1. Those two victories happened late in the season over Sports Club Corinthians USA- a club that ceased operations after the 2017 season -and Temecula FC. Temecula FC is the only still-active club to give up points to the City of Angels. The club scored 22 goals and allowed 88, that’s an average of five and a half goals allowed per match. The team had ten different goalscorers, but Byron Rivera led the pack with nine goals. Rivera played in every match except one, due to suspension.
City of Angels plays out of Calabasas High School and has developed a fantastic brand. The use of the word ‘underdog’ gives a the club an iconic image to tie the club to the city. Any club willing to make a splash in the Los Angeles community will need a strong product on and off the pitch.
One of the most exciting teams going into 2019 is FC Arizona. The club has seen success, both on and off the field, in its two seasons. In 2017 FC Arizona won the Southwest conference and was eliminated in the regional semifinal by Orange County FC. In 2018 the club took a slight dip in performance, but managed to finish in fourth place then lost once again to OCFC in the NPSL Playoff play-in round. By the end of the season it managed to score twenty goals while only allowing thirteen.
FC Arizona looks to continue to build upon its strong performances in the previous years and move towards its professional ambition. During the offseason, Arizona has announced a few big name, highly experienced signings. Cesar Mexia has been re-signed after his ten goal season and other than his experience with FC Arizona, he has also played professionally in Mexico. Russ Klabough, a new goalkeeper standing at 6’5”, is an Arizona native and has experience playing with USL club Reno 1868 FC. Shane McFaul has played in multiple countries overseas including England, where he started his career with Notts County FC. Shannon Cole is an A League veteran and also earned one cap with the Australian Men’s National Team. Owner Scott Taylor continues to tease about more big names coming to the squad before the start of 2019.
Other than a solid product on the field, FC Arizona continues to develop its relationship with its community. Most matches at John D. Riggs Stadium bring in about 2,000 fans, a number that rivals many of the best lower league markets. The club has made strides in partnering with local youth clubs and continues to make each match a special event to attend.
With the announcement of a women’s side, Founders Cup, and the eventual NPSL professional league, Arizona is looking to become one of the best soccer markets in the country. With all of the progress within the organization, expect FC Arizona to be battling for first place in 2019 and a strong competitor in Founders Cup action in the fall.
FC Golden State
One of the biggest and unheard of brands in lower league soccer, FCGS has not only its team in the NPSL, but one in USL League 2, multiple affiliated clubs in SoCal Premier, and a strong academy that includes multiple U.S. Development Academy age groups. Winning is a culture that has been repeated throughout the various levels of this football group.
The USL League 2 franchise, FC Golden State Force, played through four rounds of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup beating LA Wolves FC (UPSL), Orange County SC (USL Championship) and the Las Vegas Lights FC (USL Championship). This run would end when it faced the LA Galaxy, losing 3-1. Many of these players that contributed to the Force’s success spent time playing with the NPSL squad as well, making for an overall strong amatuer side.
Last season was Golden State’s inaugural year in the NPSL and its pipeline of talented players help produce one of the strongest sides in the Southwest. It finished in second place, scoring 27 goals while only allowing 15. Golden State would make it to the region semifinal after beating northern California side CD Aguiluchos USA 4-2. Once in the semifinal, it faced Southwest rival Orange County FC- a team it had beaten earlier in the regular season -and lost 4-2 at home. During that time in the NPSL, FCGS had seventeen different goalscorers including U.S. Open Cup Non-MLS Player of the Tournament Allison Faramillo.
Look for FC Golden State to continue to develop players like Anderson Asiedu, who was drafted by Atlanta United FC in this years MLS Superdraft; Pablo Ortiz, who signed with Honduran first division side, C.D. Real De Minas; and Samuel Goñi, who signed with Mexican side Celaya C.D. Golden State will continue to be a club that is worth watching for its multitude of talented players that get onto the pitch throughout the season.
High Desert Elite FC
“We’re blessed by the community support as well as the support and encouragement we’ve received from throughout the globe that has made this possible: from the enthusiasm within the City of Adelanto, to the players, parents and coaches of competitive youth clubs and recreational programs, into the powerhouse high schools of the area and local colleges such as Victor Valley College, and of course the business community has been a huge booster of what were working toward,” said Director of Soccer Operations, Fidel Gonzales, when asked about the importance of a new club in the High Desert. While the club is only in its first year, it is ready to make its mark on the community and nationwide. The club has already taken to hosting tryouts, signing players, and preparing its new home, Adelanto Stadium. The club is looking to become a catalyst for sports in the High Desert, something Fidel mentioned continuously. “This slot within the NPSL schedule is a game changer for the High Desert and a testament as to why we are #StrongerTogether.”
Adelanto stadium is the old home to minor league baseball team, the High Desert Mavericks. While the stadium is currently fitted for baseball, hopefully it can find its purpose within the soccer community. The stadium holds 3,800 people, a more than respectable number for stadiums in Southern California. Due to the stadium’s previous uses it offers amenities that surpass other clubs that may be playing their matches in high school stadiums. Fans should be able to grab concessions and hopefully a cold beer while they watch their favorite club.
This new club hosted over 100 talented local players in its first tryouts and found a few gems that were ready to contribute to winning matches in the club’s inaugural year. Anthony Mangold-Caudle will lead the offensive line up top. Fidel described AC as “a fiery catalyst on the field, able to get beneath the skin of defenders, strike the net from an unsuspecting distance or from a very personal proximity to the keeper.” High Desert Elite not only found talented attackers and midfielders, but has already discovered the core of its back line: Sam Howard, Bradley Thompson, and Javier Munoz who are “ cool under pressure, loud, commanding, and smashing down the hopes of an attacker’s passing lanes,” added Fidel.
While it may be the club’s first season, it is ready to win. Coach Claudio Rivas has been and will be instrumental to the success of this first year club. The club has already played in its first pre-season matchup, drawing against Inland Empire FC of the UPSL. High Desert Elite FC looks to continue to build upon that success and produce immediately in the NPSL.
Orange County FC
A team who has shown its ability to perform both in the regular season and during the playoffs, Orange County FC managed to make it to the regional finals in 2017 where it lost 1-0 to northern California side CD Aguiluchos USA. Last season, Head Coach Paul Caliguiri led his men to third place with a record of 7-1-4, scoring 26 goals and allowing 14. After beating FC Arizona in the play-in round, OCFC went on to beat ASC San Diego 3-1 and FC Golden State 4-2, but lost in the West Final to FCM Portland 6-4.
Orange County FC has a wide variety of talent and experience. Its back line was anchored by Patrick Ianni who, prior to playing in the NPSL, spent eight years in MLS with Houston Dynamo, Seattle Sounders FC, and Chicago Fire. His defensive partner, Cody Shelton, is an NPSL veteran known for his versatility on the field that allows him to play in defense, midfield and the attack. OCFC’s leading goal scorer, Dakota Collins has traveled to a few clubs within the lower leagues before coming back home to southern California. Last season Collins scored eight goals in ten games.
The I5 Army will be looking to fill Portola High School to provide an intense environment. Last season the club played out of Championship Soccer Stadium and showed that it had the support from the local community, even though the USL franchise played out of the same stadium. Orange County loves soccer.
What helps OCFC stand out amongst the other NPSL clubs (other than its product on the field and the sleek baby blue kits) is the club’s broadcasted product. It streamed multiple matches on YouTube and during OCFC 2’s UPSL season, the club broadcasted its home matches on Mycujoo. The highlight of the stream is the use of OCFC’s play-by-play analyst, Art Eftekhari. He always has a hidden gem of knowledge about different players and the clubs participating in each match. As the league continues to elevate its broadcasted product, I expect OCFC to remain a top nationally viewed product.
Oxnard Guerreros FC
The Oxnard Guerreros Football Club has been preparing relentlessly for its third season in the NPSL. While the Guerreros have yet to taste playoff success, they continue to build their roster and develop talent within the Ventura County community.The club is led by Head Coach Juan Florez, who offers plenty of experience within soccer. Whether it’s playing professionally in Colombia or coaching in the USL PDL, Juan Florez has enough experience to get this club to reach heights it has yet to reach in the NPSL.
In 2018 the club finished second to last, a result that was determined in the final week of play. The club went 2-9-1 last year and beat Temecula FC 4-0 in the final match of the season to push itself ahead of the Quails in the table. The club would score fourteen goals in 2019, led by leading goal scorers Moises Orozco and Raul Gonzalez, and allowed thirty in twelve matches. The Guerreros’ biggest victory came in the second week, where they stunned 2017 champions FC Arizona in front of a few thousand Arizona fans.
The Guerreros also have a youth academy built under their umbrella. This has given the club multiple opportunities to promote players into their first team. While Oxnard has a few veteran players, it sports a young squad, even playing multiple teenagers. The club is still building its full squad for the 2019 and will be getting a late start to tryouts, which will be held at the end of January. This late start could prove to be troublesome for the club, which starts play in early February. With ten other clubs participating, the Oxnard Guerreros Football Club will need to hit the ground running, in what will be the most challenging year of its NPSL existence.
Riverside Coras FC
This fifty year old club is entering into its fourth season in the NPSL. The club has gone through many exciting changes in the offseason: a new coaching staff, new players, and a new stadium. The Coras have had a moderate amount of success in the NPSL Southwest and 2019 looks even better.
2018 was the first season that the Riverside Coras did not make the playoffs and was their worst finish. The club finished in fifth place with a record of 2-7-3, scoring 18 goals and allowing 29. During the season, the Coras went through multiple coaches and struggled to find their rhythm.The biggest highlight to 2018 was beating rival Temecula FC 4-2 in Temecula. Previous to 2018 the Coras qualified for the playoffs, but never made it past the first round.
For the new season the Coras have promoted former captains Shane Shelton and Jimmy Ross, to Head Coach and Assistant Coach. Both Shane and Jimmy have experience playing in the NPSL and understand the challenges each player will face in the new season. They also understand the level of competition that will be produced by each club. Head Coach Shane Shelton has coaching experience with J.W. North High School and Legends I.E. Academy. While the NPSL will be a challenge, the new staff’s experience as players and coaches will help propel them to a successful year.
“We have always been a gritty, hungry, passionate blue-collar team. We represent the community in that aspect, but I think we have moved away from that in the past couple of years,” said Coach Shelton when discussing rebuilding the roster. During the recent tryouts, the Coras hosted some of the brightest talent in the Inland Empire and combined with players like returning center-mid Hugo Gutierrez, the Coras look ready for the new season.
Last season’s last place finishers have been busy trying to prepare for their best season yet. The Quails of Temecula played in the Riverside County Cup, held tryouts, announced a slew of signings and re-signings for the 2019 season, and have promoted multiple teenagers to their first team. One youth product is Jordy Verde who made his debut with Temecula at age sixteen and is still earning first team minutes. The Temecula FC umbrella goes beyond the NPSL squad and hosts multiple boys and girls academy squads.
One of the most impressive aspects of Temecula FC is its ever growing supporters group, the Dirty Birds. The Dirty Birds consistently travel to away matches. They are armed with flags, drums, and red smoke bombs. The rowdy crew has even taken to social media to express their views on the broken U.S. soccer system. All Southwest fans should expect to meet with them in their home stadium.
The 2018 season was not kind to last place Temecula FC. The club finished with a record of 1-8-3 and only scored 12 goals all season and gave up 32. The Quails started the season with three draws, two of which were against top clubs Orange County FC and FC Golden State. But the Quails couldn’t keep up that trend and managed to lose every other game, except a week six victory over Oxnard Guerreros FC.
Even though the NPSL season may not have gone as planned for Temecula, the club began to build back up in the offseason. It won the Riverside County Cup, a regional tournament against other amateur and semi-professional clubs in the county. Temecula FC would go undefeated in the Cup, lifting the trophy at home in front of hundreds of its faithful fans. The Quails will look to build on their offseason success and continue to pack their home stadium, Chapparal High School.
Photos courtesy of club social media and Protagonist Soccer. Custom art designed by Laura Mills. Previews written by Steven Ramirez with input from David Baker, Joshua Duder and Dan Vaughn.