- NBC Sports’ Premier League coverage to go live in ‘Super Bowl Central’
- NBC Sports to live broadcast Premier League studio show in downtown Phoenix on Jan. 31
- Devon Grousis in talks with USL PRO and NASL clubs but hoping for Arizona United return
- Rob Valentino, still striving for MLS, but focused on Arizona United
- Mexico to play Gold Cup match at University of Phoenix Stadium in July
Players set to sign with Phoenix FC now in limbo without a club
- Updated: March 26, 2014
Devon Grousis could have gone to the Philadelphia Union.
He could have taken up that trial opportunity this off-season or another one he had with a different MLS team. He could have also taken a few other offers from established USL PRO clubs.
But he decided to stay in Phoenix.
He wanted to stay loyal to Phoenix FC, a club that experienced one tumultuous year in USL PRO before having its plug pulled by the league earlier this month. And now, Grousis, a starting defender for Phoenix FC last season, is without a club. And so are 17 other players who were set to sign with Phoenix FC.
“Well, from a player perspective, we weren’t involved in the back end of this thing,” Grousis told ODFCnews.com this week. “I was signed to play for PFC, and was really excited about the positive moves that Davey, Rui and Tim (Phoenix FC coach David Robertson, Managing Director Rui Filipe Bento and owner Tim Donald) were making throughout the off-season. So, getting an email saying that the team was folding really caught me by surprise.”
Grousis added he doesn’t regret his decision to stay.
“At the time, it made more sense to stay here,” he said. ”So, sitting here without a job now is an interesting feeling. A professional athlete’s career is defined by their decisions of whether to stay or go. I chose to be loyal, stay here and not chase money. I’m at peace with that decision.”
There is still hope to latch on with Arizona United, the club that replaced Phoenix FC in USL PRO. Arizona United management has been in touch with former Phoenix FC players and those who were supposed to sign. The players need a club. And with less than three weeks left before its first ever match, Arizona United, which doesn’t have any obligation to sign players now in limbo after Phoenix FC’s disbandment, needs players.
“When United was unveiled, it left us with a ton of questions about our future involvement with the new club,” Grousis said. “ I really enjoyed last year. There were some things that could have been handled differently, but I don’t blame the front office for a lot of that. There was a bad seed, (referring to former President Tim Thomas) and they got rid of him. It was unfortunate that a lot of his decisions lingered, and ultimately hurt the club as a whole. I will forever be indebted to Davey, Rui, Erika (Martinez, community and player relations officer), Eric (Cornwell, an owner), Tim D. and Shawn (Diedtrich, an owner). They did so much for me in so many different ways, and I’ve got nothing but the highest respect for them. People tend to blame them for a lot of what happened last year, and I hate that. They put their money, time, and huge amounts of effort into bringing professional soccer to this city. And all the positive things that I know United will do in the future will forever be a part of Phoenix FC’s legacy, as the original founders of professional soccer in this city.”
Grousis has been training with a few players who came to the Valley to sign with Phoenix FC, including former teammates Clayton Zelin and David Paul, former Atlanta Silverbacks forward Brad Stisser and former Dayton Dutch Lions forward Brandon Swartzendruber. Former Phoenix FC forward Tommy Ramos was also set to re-sign.
Grousis said former Charleston Battery defender Cody Ellison, Charleston Battery midfielder Jose Cuevas (2012 USL PRO Rookie of the Year) and former Charlotte Eagles winger Paul Islas were all signing with the Wolves as well.
Grousis has spoken to former Phoenix FC teammate Scott Morrison and said the Scottish midfielder/defender is “keen on coming back to Phoenix.”
The players are hoping that Arizona United, which wants to hire a coach before signing players, will give them a chance.
“I’ve been in constant contact with as many of the guys as I can, and the message is: ‘This new group sounds like they have a plan, so just stay patient and we’ll see what happens. Stay sharp, stay fit and stay optimistic. Be ready to start, when the call comes through,’” Grousis said. “Of course it’s stressful for everyone, but I think the guys have been first class about the situation. No one is angry or upset. Everyone just wants to lace it up and get on with the season.
“I’ve had multiple conversations with (Arizona United Director of Soccer Operations) Kevin Stevenson. I can’t talk about details, but I can say that things are moving along and they are eager to start getting players into camp.”
Grousis’ first impression and interactions with the new USL PRO club have been positive.
“The most obvious thing about their operation is their enthusiasm,” He said. “I’m addicted to my Twitter, so it’s been very cool to see them engaging fans on social media. Their message of ‘We are here and willing to do whatever it takes for you to be a part of this club’ to the fans has been endearing. If they can consistently stay up with that, they will grow not only a large fan base, but a very loyal one. They have unparalleled marketing experience, which in my opinion, is one of the most important parts of making a USLPRO club work. They’ve brought in some key soccer figures, like (Director of Marketing and Communications at Arizona Youth Soccer Association) Ron Gilmore and Kevin Stevenson. And if the rumors are correct, boys on the pitch will have a great manager, as well.”
Grousis declined to say who may be included among Arizona United’s coaching candidates, but he believes the organization will take professional soccer in the Valley to new heights.
“I read (ODFCnews.com’s) interview of the boss (Kyle Eng), and really respected what he had to say,” Grousis said. “When speaking about the future, everything is speculation, but I can say that this city deserves MLS. Regardless of whether or not that ever happens, United seem to know what it takes to make this the best USLPRO team in the league. And that should be enough for any true lover of this game and our city.”
And now, your Moment of Zin(edine Zidane):