Six points in the first two matches of the year is a perfect start for Arizona United. Put both of the matches on the road and it's an ideal start. Now put that in the context of Arizona beginning the year with four consecutive road matches, and those six points to begin 2015 are a dream.
But the six points don't tell the entire story. Arizona United didn't play a great first half in its 2-1 win over LA Galaxy II and head coach Michael Dellorusso made a point of it in training this week.
"I think we were trying to play a bit too safe," said Dellorusso of his team's performance at the beginning of their LA match. "I think we gave them a little bit too much respect (and) played a little bit too safe."
Dellorusso said he went over the mistakes the players made last week, including taking shortcuts on defense and a lack of movement and creativity on offense.
Overall he wanted more urgency.
"It's getting us to come out and be the aggressor every game and understanding that we can dictate the pace of the game," Dellorusso said. "Hopefully we can do that from here on out."
The second-year head coach pointed out that the team was aware of its lack of urgency at halftime and that he and his staff only had to talk about a couple of things on both sides of the ball before the players went back out for the second frame.
"It was nice to see that as soon as those things are addressed, the team goes and does it," Dellorusso said. "That's always a good part of being a coach is when the group reacts to the information you give them. It's a mature group."
Dyanmic duo forming in Tan and Chin
While Arizona United's attack is still, at times, stagnant, a more creative and dynamic movement is forming in the forward pair of Dennis Chin and Long Tan.
Chin notched a goal and an assist against Los Dos, enough to garner USL Team of the Week honors. And Tan tallied the game-winning goal and had several other opportunities to score and keep the Los Angeles defense on their heels.
The two forwards are still too stagnant at times, according to Dellorusso, but the coach has been happy with the moments of brilliance they have created in their limited opportunities.
"They're pretty magical with their spacing," Dellorusso said. "We have some good attacking players; it's just getting them in sync. And that's why we're working on it today (in training) and hopefully just getting them to understand (each other)."
Countdown to Chiva: One game
One of Arizona's biggest signings in the offseason was Jose "Chiva" Cuevas, a former USL Rookie of the Year with Charleston Battery.
Cuevas is expected to be a regular in the midfield for Dellorusso's starting XI, but he began the season with a three-match suspension from an incident at the end of last season.
This will be the last match Cuevas must sit out (he can still train with the team) and Dellorusso is looking forward to plugging him into the starting lineup.
"When you have a player like that in your back pocket after the first three games that you can't even use, it's kind of like that new car you're not allowed to touch," Dellorusso said. "I look forward to having him available and getting him into the fold."
In Dellorusso's 4-3-3, Cuvas will likely play in the central midfielder role, being the creative starting point for most of the team's attacks.
As mentioned above, Arizona United must begin the season with four straight road games. This is due to the preparation of their home pitch.
Arizona United will pay their home matches at Scottsdale Stadium, in downtown Scottsdale. The stadium is the Spring Training home of the San Francisco Giants and the defending World Champions were still using the facilities into the first week of April.
Now with the baseball team gone, work has already gone into converting the field into a soccer pitch. As you can see from the photo, the entire infield and pitchers mound have already been sodded up.
While playing so many consecutive road matches isn't ideal for any manager, coach Dellorusso did talk about the positives this long road stretch has had.
"Some of these guys have families and people they have to worry about at home, but (when they go on the road) it's all off their plate," Dellorusso said. "All they have to concern themselves with is their own body. ... The guys are close and this brings them even closer because they're spending every minute together. So, so far it's been a good experience."