by Josh McFadden
Starting this spring, Davis County residents won’t have to go far to watch high-caliber soccer.
The Utah Saints will join the United Premier Soccer League for the 2018 season. The Saints will play their home games at Woods Cross High School in the Utah Conference of the 100-plus-team league that operates in 22 U.S. states. The UPSL was formed in 2011 and is the fastest-growing professional development league in the country.
The Saints were founded last year and are now ready to take to the field for the upcoming spring season.
Davis County businessman Andres Pena purchased the franchise. The longtime local resident is thrilled to give soccer players an option to play the game they love at a high level. He has hired Spencer Tarma as the team’s first coach.
“I want to give young men an opportunity and a chance to win,” Pena said. “I want to bring soccer to an even higher level in Utah. I feel that there is a lot of untapped talent in this state. Unfortunately, a lot of young men don’t get the chance to showcase in a national league their attributes, whether because they can’t go to college or can’t afford it, or simply because there was no team. Now they will get that chance.”
Pena is confident that the Saints will put a good product on the field and that the team will give fans another option of watching excellent soccer.
“Fans and locals should be very excited about this because they will be able to see their neighbors—the young men from their town compete at a national level and even have a chance to play against MLS teams through the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup which we have access to,” he said.
A native of Ecuador, Pena was selected to play for Ecuador’s Under-17 National team. He and his family then moved to Woods Cross where he starred as a goalkeeper for a Woods Cross High’s School state championship team. Pena then played for the Salt Lake City-based club Olympique Montreux. It was there where his coach, Bel-Ami Montreux, became a mentor, inspiring him to be a coach and team owner.
“I felt there was a need for a higher level of soccer in our county and state,” Pena said. “I had just finished winning the Utah State Soccer League as an assistant coach for Olympique Montreux, and I asked the owner Bel Ami de Montreux if he wanted a higher challenge. After he said no, I decided I wanted the challenge.”
Pena realizes this challenge is a big one. But he’s willing to do what it takes to make the franchise successful in Davis County. He has some lofty short- and long-term goals.
“Like any business, it could go either way,” he said. “It’s a risky one, but one I’m willing to take. Not only is it giving me a chance to own a franchise, but I give many a chance to follow their dreams by providing a path to pro. My short-term goal is to have such a strong team formed, that after our first 90 minutes debut game, everyone will know who the Utah Saints FC are. My long-term goals are immense. I’m planning on developing an academy within Davis County, with top trainers in every position, qualified psychologists, nutritionists and physical therapists to work with each block of ages in our institution from children, all the way up to the men’s club.”
Pena hopes local businesses will step up and provide sponsorships for the team. He knows as the players and coaches work hard and perform their best, and as every member of the franchise does his and her part, the team will be successful.