The NPSL’s Southwest Conference is one to watch for, a conference that has grown to nine clubs for 2017. It looks to be massively competitive with teams, both old and new, vying for the conference title.
Albion SC PROS
In 2016, Albion SC PROS finished first in the conference with a 9-4-1 record. That record was one of the top in the league and the team advanced deep into the postseason, quite an accomplishment for an expansion side.
Last year’s squad was led by forwards Matt Clare and David Luquen and goalkeeper Jean Antoine. Clare returns to PROS after spending time with the MASL’s San Diego Sockers. He will be joined by defenders Jakub “Kuba” Waligorski and Frankie Sanfilipo. Waligorski received many offers from USL clubs, while Sanfilipo most recently played in the NASL. Newcomer Arman Samimi is yet another player to watch for.
Albion’s talented coaching staff is led by Ziggy Korytoski (head coach), Andre Schmid (assistant coach), Mark Riley (assistant coach), and Martin Johnson (goalkeeper coach).
Korytoski has set high expectations for the 2017 season and has already accomplished a great deal in preseason play, including a win over USL side Phoenix Rising 3-1.
“San Diego is an ideal setting to develop players. The proof is in Albion which has integrated our youth organization to complete the soccer pyramid – our model creates a pathway to the PROS. We averaged over 2,000 supporters in our first season with a good mix of community and youth club support. We have a target on our backs this year, we know that. But we will continue to chase the standard we set, with the ultimate goal to win the national championship.”
Southern California Sports Club, more commonly known as SoCal SC, is poised for a breakthrough in 2017 after a 5-5-2 record and a fourth place finish in 2016. The club saw a number of players turn pro in the offseason, including two that headed south to play in Liga MX.
Striker Christian Gonzalez-Diaz, who led the team with 11 goals in 11 games, was the key cog in the team’s attack last season.
This year the club is expecting great things from midfielder Eric Gonzalez and goalkeeper Tyler Wilson. The latter is a product of the Real Salt Lake Academy and is expected to be a strong presence in goal.
SoCal SC General Manager Daniel Gamba is excited about the team’s prospects in 2017.
"We are looking forward to improving our performance on the field, and to continue developing players on and off the field.”
Temecula FC hopes to improve from a fifth place finish in 2016, looking to grow from a 3-7-2 record last season.
The club clearly has the talent to be incredibly successful. It all starts with former MLS player Keegan Smith, a dynamic forward that spent time with both the Montreal Impact and Orlando City B. Jose Fred Mazariegos is a very exciting talent in Temecula’s midfield, a player that could contribute in a number of roles.
Temecula FC’s veteran coaching staff is led by William Donachie (head coach), AJ Covarrubias (assistant coach), and Brent Reis (goalkeeper coach). Donachie is best known for his time with Manchester City and the Scotland national team; the legend had 350+ appearances for the Sky Blues and another 35 caps with Scotland.
FC Arizona marks the return of NPSL soccer to the Grand Canyon State and they are doing so in a big way. Over 2800 fans and supporters turned out for the team’s most recent preseason match, a 5-0 rout of Real San Jose. The team is loaded at every position with Manny Campos (forward), Cesar Mexia (forward), Manuel Riva (midfielder), and Andrew Weber (goalkeeper) leading the way for the expansion side.
Weber is a big name in the American soccer community, having spent time with D.C. United, San Jose Earthquakes, Seattle Sounders FC, Montreal Impact, and Portland Timbers.
Weber also doubles as the team’s goalkeeping coach. Former pro goalkeeper Aidan Davison serves as the team’s head coach and brings vast experience to the position. Davison made 350+ appearances as a pro in addition to playing with the Northern Ireland national team.
Owner Scott Taylor has set some high standards for the 2017 season.
“Our goal is to make the playoffs and be competitive in every match.”
Orange County FC
Orange County FC made a massive splash in the American soccer community when they signed two-time World Cup veteran and U.S. Soccer Hall of Famer Paul Caligiuri as their head coach.
The move brought massive experience to the expansion team, considering Caligiuri’s 16-year professional career that saw the Westminster, California native play in the U.S. and German leagues in addition to appearing in 110 matches with the USMNT. Ernie Richau joins the OCFC staff as an assistant coach.
Forwards Alessandro Canale and Jose Montes De Oca are expected to make a tremendous impact. Canale is a proven goalscorer with excellent touch, best known for being a member of the U.S. National Beach Team. Defender Erik Muller is a leader at the center back position, while midfielder/forward Armando Flores and midfielder Edward Anthony bring technical ability and dynamic play to the team.
OCFC CEO and Founder Nader Dejbakhsh has high expectations for 2017.
“We will play a dynamic style of soccer, play consistently attractive soccer, and compete at the highest of standards.”
Oxnard Guerreros FC
The Oxnard, California expansion side has big plans for 2017 and it all starts with playmaker Alberto “Tito” Anguiano.
The flashy midfielder has made headlines in the past, most recently being named Mitre National Player of the Week in May of 2016. Anguiano is an NPSL veteran, having spent five seasons with FC Hasental before joining Oxnard for the 2017 season. He spent his collegiate career with Oxnard College and Cal State Monterey Bay. He earned All–Western State Conference honors as a sophomore at Oxnard College in 2009.
The team is led by a talented staff that includes Julio Cesar Gomez De La Torre (head coach), Paulo Monlleo (assistant coach), Roberto Gutierrez (goalkeeper coach), and Robb Bolton (General Manager/ATC).
Owner/President Ty Otto is looking forward to the club’s inaugural season in the NPSL.
“Our goals for the first season are to establish ourselves in the NPSL as a major threat and put Oxnard soccer on the map. We have a number of development clubs and amateur teams that are hungry to play the beautiful game at a higher level. We bring a community that bleeds talent and has immense passion for soccer. Los Guerreros are bringing to the NPSL true quality grassroots soccer with local athletes and fanatic supporters.”
The Rest of the Field
Corinthians USA, Riverside Coras, and City of Angels FC round out the conference, which is expected to be one of the most competitive in the country.
Photo Credit: OCFC, San Diego Sports Domination, Doug Yoder of By Design Images, JC Coles (Ventura), FC Arizona