Celebrating some of Arizona’s best soccer stars

Experience AZ | 15 Feb |

There might not be an MLS side based in Arizona, but that hasn’t stopped Arizona’s finest players making their way into premier soccer competitions. With international sides gearing up for the race to the 2022 FIFA World Cup, now is the perfect time to celebrate some of the Arizonans who will be hoping to leave their mark on the world of soccer in the next few years.

Here are three individuals who have big things to look forward to, particularly this season.

Greg Vanney

Vanney was born in Virginia, but the three years he spent playing soccer for Marcos de Niza High School in Tempe means that Arizona can claim him as one of their own – particularly because he inspired his team to three consecutive state championship titles! As a striker, Vanney terrorized defenses in the early 1990s.

By the time he arrived in MLS, Vanney probably had a bit more sympathy for defenders – he had become one of them. LA Galaxy made Vanney the 17th pick of the college draft for the first ever MLS season in 1996, with the player becoming one of the top defenders in the country.

Vanney wasn’t happy to just look back on his playing career, which included 37 appearances for the USA, and call it a job well done. He has coached Toronto FC since 2014, leading the side to a famous domestic treble in 2017. Toronto finished as runner-up in MLS 2019, but Vanney will be hoping to go one better in 2020.

Richard Ledezma

Just 19 years old, this Phoenix-born diminutive midfielder is showing great promise at this stage of his career. Ledezma currently plies his trade in the Netherlands for PSV Eindhoven, having left behind the safe option of Real Salt Lake at the end of 2018 to try something new. Ledezma has since reached the fringes of the PSV first eleven and will have aspirations of establishing himself in the side this year.

Ledezma was part of the US side that performed well at the 2019 FIFA Under-20 World Cup, featuring as the team reached the quarter-finals. He played alongside fellow exciting prospects Sebastian Soto and Timothy Weah, with these Americans also trying their hand (or feet) at a career in Europe.

This promising batch of youngsters bodes well for USA’s fortunes at the 2022 World Cup. As of February 5th, the USA are +10000 in international football betting to lift the World Cup in Qatar. That price will shorten if these young Americans continue to develop; could we see the Phoenix-born Ledezma representing his country on the biggest stage in 2022? If he has a big 2020, then Ledezma may begin to dream.

Luis Robles

From a player at the start of their career to a player approaching the end – in theory. Robles was born in Fort Huachuca in 1984 and showed great potential as a goalkeeper from an early age. In a move that characterized his fearlessness as a player, Robles chose to snub MLS and signed his first professional deal with the German side Kaiserslautern in 2007.

Robles did eventually come back to the US and joined the New York Red Bulls, the club that would become synonymous with the player. This Arizona native achieved incredible things in New York, winning the Supporters’ Shield on three occasions and being named MLS Goalkeeper of the Year in 2015.

Perhaps his most remarkable achievement is his run of 183 consecutive starts in MLS’ regular season, a testament to his prodigious fitness and his keeping ability. Robles has now joined Inter Miami ahead of their first season in MLS, and you wouldn’t bet against this ironman carrying on for a good few years.

These soccer stars may not be renowned for their feats for Arizona sides, but they’ve done Arizona proud during their careers so far.

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