Arizona United, a team that essentially every writer who follows the USL, including myself, told you was destined for greatness this season. They’ve dropped their last three games by a combined score of 10-0, including a 3-0 loss to “Division 4” side Chula Vista FC in the US Open Cup, and have failed to score a goal in 291 minutes.
The Scottsdale side has won just one of their last seven games, accumulating a paltry four points over that same span of time. So what exactly is wrong with the team? Is it endemic of deeper issues, or just a small rough patch that is getting blown out of proportion?
In their 11 games thus far, United have equaled or outshot their opponents six times. They are 1-5 in those games, outshooting the Aztex twice, Chula Vista, the Switchbacks and Timbers 2. Their one win in those six games came when they dispatched the Aztex 1-0 on April 11 after tying them 8-8 in shots.
Only averaging 9.1 shots per game, Arizona has relied on a conversion rate of 24.2 percent to get their four wins this season, twice their overall rate of conversion. Meanwhile, they have been outshot 144-91 in league play. Not only that, opponents have placed more than double the amount of shots on goal as United. Tellingly, just two of their players have more than five shots on goal, which goes a long way towards explaining why they rank in the bottom third of the league in goals scored.
Lack of Communication
I’ll defer to Kyle Kepner on this one, as he’s actually been attending these games live and can get a better feel for the communication aspect of the game than I can on the Youtube stream.
Communication is vital in any sport, especially between the goalie and his defense. If the goalie fails to communicate, and the defense fails to pick up the runs, it can quickly lead to goals. Players need to know where to slide and when to help, and that is near impossible to do without actually calling out what is going on. Failing to talk goes a long way to explaining why they’ve given up 45 shots, including a league season-high 26 shots to the Switchbacks in a 5-0 drubbing two weeks ago, in their last two games.
Give Tan Some Help
Long Tan is by no means a prolific scorer, but he does provide a steady presence. He’s averaging right along the lines of his goal output last year (.42 goals per game) at .4 goals per game. However, he’s constantly sitting up top in what appears at times to be a 4-5-1 or a 4-2-3-1.
Tactically speaking, I get the appeal of controlling the midfield, but personally I think unless you have an absolute monster up top, it’s better to have two forwards. It reduces pressure on the lone forward who, in situations like what Arizona are in now, is essentially playing just a long game of 4v1. I’m no tactical genius, but maybe give Tan someone to play off of on the same line?
As AZ United announced two days ago, reserve keeper Jacole Turner was released from the team as a result of the always popular team rules violation. On the face of it, that doesn’t seem like a cause for alarm, it’s a backup who has only seen the field once and proceeded to give up three goals, but it could be indicative of a budding problem in the locker room.
As an Energy supporter, I will admit I am finding a certain amount of joy in this sophomore slump that Arizona is facing. However, hopefully Michael Dellorusso can get things sorted out behind the scenes. The supporters in Scottsdale need something to cheer about.