Phoenix Rising’s popularity is growing with each season, and forward Santi Moar is leading the charge.
In 2021, he scored the most goals for the Rising at 16 — six more than the next closest of his teammates, Solomon Asante.
He led the team in appearances with 33, and he created the second-most scoring chances on the team with 64. Moar topped the league in goals with 71 and in shots with 643.
Moar traces his success and passion back to his childhood.
“It was always a type of dream,” Moar says.
“When I would get that question about what I wanted to be when I grew up, when I was 6 or 7 years old, the answer was always to be a soccer player. Obviously, I had different plans if that didn’t work out. But being a professional soccer player was always the dream. Being able to fulfill that dream is basically all I could ask for. It makes me happy to go out there and train, play and compete. Being able to do what I love is the best.”
Moar’s professional career began in 2012 at SD Órdenes, a Spanish club based his birth city of Ordes.
Later that year, he moved to SD Sporting Sada, where he stayed until 2014. After that tenure, Moar attended Pfeiffer University from 2014 to 2016, alongside a season with the Charlotte Eagles of the Premier Development League in 2016.
After being selected in the fourth round of the 2017 MLS SuperDraft by the Philadelphia Union, he began his USL journey with its affiliate, the Bethlehem Steel, for two seasons.
In 2019, Moar signed with New Mexico United in its inaugural season. It proved to be Moar’s breakout year, earning a spot on the USL’s Second Team All-League squad. After the season, he signed with Phoenix Rising.
Phoenix Rising’s style drew him to the club.
“It’s a very attractive style of soccer that we play in Phoenix,” Moar says.
“Before me with players like Junior Flemmings, Didier Drogba and Solomon Asante, you could see that the offense and the attacking style for this team suits the attacking players very much. Right now, it’s my turn. I’m enjoying this, because it gives us the opportunity and puts us in situations where we can score a lot of goals and produce that exciting product that fans love.”
The fans aren’t so bad either. He loves their enthusiasm at Phoenix Rising Stadium at Wild Horse Pass in Chandler.
“It’s great when the team is winning and they can celebrate, but I think they are more important when the team is doing bad and struggling a little bit,” Moar says.
“They keep supporting, cheering and pushing us. Throughout a season with 34 games, we’ll have both of those moments. We’ll have wins. We’ll have celebrations. We’ll have losses and tough moments. But, when you have them all the time cheering and supporting, they will be the ones winning some games. They’re relentless with their support, and they are also part of the success of the team. It’s great to have them there. That pressure, because they really want to win so bad, that also gives us a little bit of extra pressure. It’s more responsibility for us, because we need to also win for them.”
The stadium, which opened for play in 2021, has impressed him as well.
“I love playing here,” Moar adds. “The grass is amazing, and the stadium is truly, you know, cozy. Sometimes, we go to other pitches and it’s too big, there’s no crowd, or the people are not engaged with the team.
“Here, it’s cozy. They make us feel warm. It’s a good feeling. … Now, with a new stadium, new facilities, two amazing training pitches and the game field, which is unbelievable, I don’t think we could ask for anything else from the players’ viewpoint.”
Put it this way: Phoenix Rising is the whole package to Moar.
“It’s really important that the team keeps growing,” Moar says.
“Obviously, when you create a new franchise, there’s hype around the new team.
“But now that the team has been in the Valley for six years, the people are engaging more and being more involved with the team. They keep coming. That means that the product, and what they see, is really interesting. So, for us, seeing that they keep coming, people keep learning about the team, and fans keep growing, it’s really interesting. … Eventually, if the team can step up a league, it will be amazing for the city and the soccer in this state.”
As a player who has spent time in more than one country, Moar has high praise for the city of Phoenix.
“It’s a very active and lively city,” Moar says. “It keeps us entertained, happy, comfortable, and I think it’s one of the best places that you can be in the United States. Being able to play in front of a really good crowd week in and week out makes our lives a little more exciting.”