Center back James Musa makes return to Phoenix Rising

Mar 5, 2021, 5:15 PM | Updated: 6:28 pm
Phoenix Rising center back James Musa (Arizona Sports/Ashley Orellana)...
Phoenix Rising center back James Musa (Arizona Sports/Ashley Orellana)
(Arizona Sports/Ashley Orellana)

Center back James Musa will be returning to Phoenix Rising for the 2021 USL Championship season, the club confirmed on Friday.

The New Zealand international spent the 2020 campaign with MLS side Minnesota United FC, but the club declined to pick up his option in December. He only made six appearances in his lone season in Minnesota, two of which were starts.

But Musa is no stranger to Phoenix Rising or manager Rick Schantz. In his two years in a PRFC kit from 2018-19, Musa made 55 appearances (45 starts) in the team’s 76 matches in all competitions.

He also managed to net two goals and notch three assists in his two years in Phoenix, the latter of which featured a 50-yard pass to set up Adam Jahn on the volley. Jahn joined USLC rival Orange County SC on loan from MLS side Atlanta United FC on Feb. 22.

“I feel very lucky to be back with the squad,” Musa said in a press release.

“Some of the guys on this team are my good mates in football. We played together for two years. We had an amazing two years. There is something different about this team. It feels like a family. Everyone is very close and able to get along together. That obviously helps us out on the field. We’ve got some trophies to win.”

“James is very good player,” Schantz said in the release. “He is a versatile and technically gifted player. He made a huge impact for us two years ago. I’m expecting him to do the same this season. His experience with Minnesota was very good. I know he’s ready to help us win more trophies.”

Musa was used as a No. 6 by Schantz during his Phoenix Rising tenure. And even with the rise of holding midfielder Kevon Lambert — who the manager has said is the first name he writes on his starting XI — Musa was able to heavily contribute due to the Jamaican being away from the team on international duty, thus leading to his move to MNUFC.

Fast-forward to 2021 and the soon-to-be 29-year-old will be playing in a little deeper role as a center back in his second stint in Phoenix.

Schantz teased the move last week via Twitter by tagging Joey Farrell, Tobi Adewole and Musa — the only center backs on the team — with a video of Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola speaking highly of his central defenders.

With the addition of Musa, Schantz most likely now has his starting XI — or at least his backline. Expect to see a back four of Darnell King, Adewole, Musa and fellow New Zealand international Deklan Wynne, who was also signed by PRFC this offseason.

And due to Schantz’s goal of always being two-deep at every position, additional signing announcements will be coming at the beginning of March as players funnel in for physicals and intake evaluations March 3-5 before the first official preseason training session on March 7.

Phoenix Rising now has 16 players signed to its roster ahead of the 2021 USLC campaign (not including academy contracts):

Goalkeepers: Zac Lubin

Fullbacks: Darnell King, Joey Calistri and Deklan Wynne

Center backs: Joey Farrell, Tobi Adewole and James Musa

Midfielders: Jon Bakero, Kevon Lambert, Aodhan Quinn and Arturo Rodriguez

Forwards: Solomon Asante, Rufat Dadashov, Santi Moar, Ivan Gutierrez and Prince Saydee

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Center back James Musa makes return to Phoenix Rising