Arizona United: Arizona's Professional Soccer Team
Every four years in the summer, millions of soccer fans come out of the woodwork to watch the World Cup. But the other three years and 10 months, there is a small number of dedicated fans that support local teams in the United States.
La Furia Roja is the fan group that supports the Arizona United Soccer team.
“La Furia Roja means 'the red fury,'" said Captain of La Furia Roja Sam VonBrandt. "We originally chose that because we’re red, we are crazy."
“It’s my responsibility to make sure everyone leaves the bar on time, gets to the bar on time," VonBrandt said. "Make sure that we march well, drums are in line. I get everyone to chant in sync."
She leads cheers through the entire game against the Dayton Dutch Lions from Ohio. Arizona United was founded this March, just three weeks before the season started. It’s a United Soccer League Professional team, which is like a minor league baseball team. The United replaced the Phoenix Wolves, the team that folded earlier this year.
"It’s hard out here in the desert where people have to travel vast distances. I mean I drive 44 miles here for every game," said La Furia Roja’s Goyo Spradlin. “I understand it’s tough and in the summer it’s hot, but you know if you really love this sport and want a pro team you have to do your part and show up.”
In some ways, La Furia Roja is a microcosm of the nationalism the World Cup evokes from people across the globe. Fans from different ages, ethnicities and backgrounds all living in the Valley gather at the Peoria Sports Complex to root for the same team. But the major difference in the United States is soccer is just a sport, according to Spradlin.
“In other countries, a lot of the fanatic soccer players, all the ultras and stuff, they are very politicized. In the states, don’t have to worry about that. We can just hang out and have fun," Spradlin said.
The team has four wins, eight loses and three draws. And it’s the first Arizona team to make it to the fourth round of the US Open Cup, an annual national tournament. According to Spradlin, there is a science to encouraging the players.
“Emulate the feeling we want the players to have on the field," Spradlin said. "If they look like they are slowing down, we want to give them that extra push to have more energy.”
La Furia Roja overtakes a section of seats behind the goal, but it’s a small crowd. At this Wednesday night game, more than half the stadium is empty. The Arizona United’s first season will end in September.