Mar 8, 2024 - News

Lots of changes for Phoenix Rising as defending champs start new season

A man speaks in front of television cameras.

Phoenix Rising FC head coach Danny Stone on Wednesday. Photo: Jeremy Duda/Axios

Things look different for Phoenix Rising FC this year as the Valley's professional soccer team prepares to begin a new season as defending champions.

Catch up quick: The team won its first United Soccer League Championship last year, defeating the Charleston Battery 3-2 on penalty kicks.

Driving the news: Phoenix opens its season at home Saturday against Birmingham Legion FC.

  • New head coach Danny Stone told reporters on Wednesday that the players have a big target on their backs as defending champions.
  • "Every team we play … we will be a target, and we will be something that every team will chase this year, so we need to be ready for that," he said at a press conference at Phoenix Rising Soccer Stadium.

The big picture: The Rising has a new coach, a host of new players and some big holes to fill from last year's championship team.

Threat level: The team lost its two leading scorers in the offseason, with Danny Trejo joining the Polish team Korona Kielce and Manuel Arteaga going to the USL's Tampa Bay Rowdies.

  • Trejo's 19 goals were tied for second place in the USL last season, and Arteaga was tied in a five-way tie for seventh with 15.
  • Midfielder Carlos Harvey also left to join Minnesota United FC in the MLS.
  • "It's a big change. Goals win games, that's the reality," Stone told Axios.

Zoom in: Stone is looking to returning forward Dariusz Formella, who scored 12 goals last season, and forward Rémi Cabral, who joined the team from the MLS' Colorado Rapids, to fill those shoes.

  • "This is not down to any one player to be that person that replaces. This is down to the collective team, and of course the staff working with the team to get us to that point," Stone told Axios.
  • Phoenix has eight new players this season.
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