Phoenix Rising not bringing back Solomon Asante was a business decision

Feb 4, 2022, 3:22 PM | Updated: 5:12 pm

Phoenix Rising FC captain and forward Solomon Asante. (Arizona Sports/Ashley Orellana)...

Phoenix Rising FC captain and forward Solomon Asante. (Arizona Sports/Ashley Orellana)

(Arizona Sports/Ashley Orellana)

CHANDLER — It’s officially the end of an era.

Phoenix Rising FC announced on Tuesday that former captain and two-time USL Championship MVP Solomon Asante will not be returning for the 2022 campaign.

The club wanted to re-sign its captain since 2019, but PRFC ultimately had to make a business decision to let the Ghanaian walk.

“I think so, yeah. Can’t really comment too much on that,” manager Rick Schantz said when asked if it was a business decision. “But at the end of the day, if we had the highest budget in the USL like everyone thinks, it would just be easy to sign these guys all the time but we can’t do that.

“When you keep players at that level for multiple years at a club, you don’t want to be disrespectful and ask them to take pay cuts and at some point you have to make the most difficult decisions. I’m not worried about Solo. He’ll do really well and it’s a new chapter in Phoenix Rising. Like I said, we went from Didier Drogba and Solo Asante. Now the next captain has some big shoes to fill.”

Asante spent four seasons with Phoenix Rising from 2018-21, serving as vice-captain behind Drogba in 2018 before taking on the armband full-time for the last three years.

The 31-year-old Ghanaian combined for 54 goals and 43 assists over 114 appearances en route to two Western Conference championships and one regular-season title.

Asante was named MVP in back-to-back seasons in 2019 and 2020 — the only player in league history to do so — after his 22 goals won the Golden Boot and his single-season record 17 assists in 2019. His 39 combined goals and assists in one year is also a USL record, while he finished atop the assist charts once again in the COVID-19 pandemic-shortened 2020 with nine.

In addition to being one of only a handful of players to have scored 50 goals in USL, the 5-foot-2 Asante is the only player in league history with 40 goals and 40 assists.

And with former vice-captain Jon Bakero’s departure to Bulgaria first division side PFC Slavia Sofia this offseason, the question now is who will don the armband full-time for Phoenix Rising going forward?

Veterans and longer-tenured players such as Darnell King, Aodhan Quinn, Kevon Lambert, James Musa and Joe Farrell come to mind, but Schantz says he has already made the decision on who the next captain will be.

“It’s all-encompassing, respect from his teammates, quality of the person he is, the character,” Schantz said of what he looks for in his captain. “Does he live our core values here? Is he the type of person that everybody in the club can look up to?

“With Didier, you had to just walk in the door and everybody respected him. With Solo, an infectious laugh and everybody loved him and he proved it on the field. I know the next captain without a doubt is very well respected. It’s exciting. I have a very good relationship with him.”

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