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Rising FC’s Aodhan Quinn: It’s obvious Phoenix is the best club in USL

Aodhan Quinn. (Arizona Sports/Ashley Orellana)

Another day, another splashy signing for Phoenix Rising FC.

The club announced the acquisition of 2018 MVP finalist Aodhan Quinn on Thursday, the third signee to join PRFC in as many days.

Quinn is arguably the biggest name to switch teams this offseason, as the former Orange County SC midfielder has been called one of, if not, the best midfielders in the league by his new manager Rick Schantz.

So after playing for PRFC’s rivals for the last three years, what made him decide to join forces with Phoenix?

“I think that’s pretty obvious: It’s the best club in the USL I think, especially the West,” Quinn said. “Phoenix obviously competes for trophies every single year and that’s what I want to do. For me, I really want to win a USL Championship before I’m done playing and I think Phoenix gives me the best opportunity.

“I think with all the talent they have — and hopefully I can help out in that aspect — it came down to trophies and they really went after me hard and that felt nice, so it was good to feel wanted and a pretty easy decision.”

Quinn suited up for OCSC the night that Phoenix Rising won the 2018 Western Conference Final in Orange County, the first of its kind in PRFC history. The 28-year-old midfielder said that while the result didn’t go his side’s way, he was still happy for then-Rising players Saad Abdul-Salaam and Dallas Jaye, who were both groomsmen in Quinn’s wedding.

But that doesn’t mean there will be any love lost when Phoenix and OC meet on the pitch in 2021.

“It’s going to be weird playing Orange County, but I’m competitive. I never want to lose,” Quinn said. “To say I won’t want to score or beat Orange County would be a lie.

“I try to put the most I can in every game, but those little extra games like when I went to Cincy and had to play Louisville — there’s always something extra. You just want to make sure you made the right decision I guess and prove it to myself more than anything.”

So what exactly should Phoenix Rising faithful expect to see from Quinn once the 2021 preseason gets underway?

Well, for starters, that’s going to depend on who else is on the field, specifically in the midfield. Despite being deployed as a holding No. 6 midfielder with Orange County, Quinn has the ability to play higher up the pitch as more of a true box-to-box No. 8, which is perfect for Schantz’s system.

“I think my best role is just a center mid, a box-to-box No. 8,” Quinn said. “I think I have some quality in the attack where I can score goals, get assists and make passes. But I’m also comfortable playing in the defensive mid position.

“I like getting on the ball, I like playing forward passes, I like breaking lines. Just trying to get the special players the ball: Santi (Moar), (Solomon) Asante, (Rufat) Dadashov — get them the ball in good spots so they can score goals and we can be successful.”

With Kevon Lambert being Schantz’s No. 1 selection in 2020 at the No. 6 position, Quinn will have the opportunity to get into more of those attacking positions with the Jamaican behind him. However, with the 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup and 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers scattered across the months of July through November, there’s a possibility Phoenix could be without Lambert for a lengthy spell, much like during the 2019 Gold Cup.

So should PRFC be without its Jamaican in 2021, expect to see Quinn fill in during Lambert’s absence.

That being said, don’t forget that Rising was without their Jamaicans in Lambert and Junior Flemmings during part of the illustrious 20-game winning streak that same year. Not to mention, Lambert’s fill-in back then James Musa is now getting ready for the MLS Western Conference Final as a member of Minnesota United FC.

And other than lifting the one trophy Phoenix has yet to get its hands on (other than the U.S. Open Cup), Quinn has a specific individual accolade he’s trying to accomplish in 2021, but it’s not for himself.

“I think my goal for this year is — obviously to win trophies — but I want to help Asante get the third MVP in a row,” he said. “I think that would be awesome for him and that would be great for the club.”

Asante is coming off back-to-back MVP campaigns after being named to the 2018 All-League First Team along with Quinn. The Ghanaian is already the first to accomplish the back-to-back MVP feat in USL Championship history and a third would best Kevin Molino — now with Minnesota United — for the most all-time in the league history.

Quinn’s competitive nature came out while discussing the pitch conditions when OC hosted PRFC in 2020, which were less than ideal after the city-owned field had been neglected of maintenance because of COVID-19. But despite missing a penalty after losing his footing due to the poor grass, Quinn still won’t use that as an excuse in a game that OC ended up winning 1-0.

“I know (the grass) is going to be ideal in Phoenix, it’s always great so that’s what I’m looking forward to,” he said. “But that’s also something that I think I can bring to this club hopefully is just a little bit of my mentality and win at all costs.

“It doesn’t, shouldn’t matter if the grass is terrible or perfect. At Phoenix, we should win every single game and hopefully that’s what we do.”

Quinn’s desire to win knows no bounds, as the San Diego native will be leaving Orange County — which is only an hour and a half drive away — to join Phoenix in the quest to lift a USL Championship Final trophy.

“I like being uncomfortable and getting out of my comfort zone and I think kind of got in my comfort zone a little too much in Orange County,” he said. “I think this change will be good for me and think it’ll up my game a little bit.

“I’m going to work every single day and game 100% and give it my all. I want a trophy just as bad, if not, more than everyone else so hopefully we can do it together.”