Photo courtesy Arizona United SC
PEORIA, Ariz. – Arizona United SC knew going into Saturday night’s contest with Real Monarchs SLC a playoff place was out of reach, but in the club’s home finale at the Peoria Sports Complex, a thrilling 3-2 victory saw the side give its fans the hope of something to look forward to in 2017.
“I said to the guys before the game ‘Just go out and enjoy it,’” said United Coach Frank Yallop. “There was nothing on the game really except pride and we want to win at home in front of the fans and for ourselves. I think they took that into the game. I thought we played some really good stuff to be honest. Not all the time, defensively we struggled, but they are a good side. They move the ball well and create good chances. What I like about the spirit of our team to come back and get the win.”
United took the lead in the 13th minute through another fine finish by Luke Rooney, who took a pass by Tony Cascio and fired a low shot into the left side of the net. The goal was a prelude for what was to come, as both teams recorded highlight-reel finishes in the game that brought the crowd to its feet.
The Monarchs’ equalizer in the final minute of the first half was one, as Pedro Baez claimed possession 40 yards from goal, took a touch forward and then uncorked a superlative finish into the top-left corner of the net. After Real took the lead just past the hour-mark it was Arizona’s turn, as a long clearance upfield by Carl Woszczynski into the right side of the Real penalty area was deftly flicked into the path of Peter Kelly by Chris Cortez, and the midfielder lashed home an outstanding volley into the opposite corner of the net.
“The ball out from Carl was from our box to Cortez and he just kind of laid it off with his thigh and I just came through and hit it,” said Kelly. “It was one of those things that you’re reacting and you’re not really thinking. I’ll be watching it on loop because that was my first goal of my two, three years so I was excited about it.”
“It was a wonder goal,” added Yallop. “I mean their first goal was incredible, but I think that goal from Peter might have been even better. Two great goals to witness if you were in the stands. If not, you should check out YouTube later.”
Kelly’s goal got Arizona back on level terms with just over 25 minutes to go, and the hosts found a winner a little over 10 minutes later when Long Tan struck for his 10th goal of the season, redirecting home a low shot by Rooney after a half-cleared set piece.
For Rooney, whose seven goals and five assists have provided a major bright spot for United this season, the result was a bittersweet one, but also something the club can look to build on in what should be an exciting offseason ahead.
“I’ve really enjoyed it, everything about it,” Rooney said of his first season in Arizona. “It’s maybe been a little bit disappointing on the field. We would’ve like to make the playoffs. Frank, Birch, Corey knew it was going to be a tough season with such a big transition. But saying that, I think you can’t be unlucky over a whole season. But I think another couple of games, another few points difference and we might have just sneaked in there. But it might be for the best and we have to regroup and come back next year.”