Match Preview Presented by Northern Arizona University
Phoenix Rising FC heads to Las Vegas to take on Lights FC this Saturday, August 26. The match will be broadcast live on ESPN+ and Arizona’s Family Sports & Entertainment Network beginning at 7:30 p.m.
With 10 matches remaining in the 2023 regular season, Rising sits seventh in the West, in playoff position, looking to improve its seeding against a Vegas side that earned one of its two wins on the year in Phoenix.
“Las Vegas came here and grabbed a positive result,” said Rising Head Coach Juan Guerra. “They haven’t changed much. One of their most intense, aggressive and dynamic players [Tabort Etaka Preston] was just transferred, but besides that, they’re a team that has been consistent in the way they do things.”
Despite posting just two wins this season, Lights are one of seven teams (along with Rising) in the USL Championship to have more than eight draws. Vegas has also lost nine games by just a single goal. Of those nine losses, six came against teams currently in the top five of its conference.
Guerra doesn’t expect Vegas to change its approach in Saturday’s match given Lights FC’s 1-0 win vs. Rising on May 26, but his team is ready to adapt in-game.
“We’re preparing ourselves for teams to transform during the match,” said Guerra. “RGV pressed us at the beginning and then dropped into a mid-block in the 10th minute. Teams are adapting to not press us high. We’ve seen it in multiple games now.”
Rising fell, 1-0, to RGV last week. The result was the fifth one-goal loss Rising has suffered this season after two single-goal wins earlier in the year.
“We’ve been craving consistency since game seven,” said Guerra. “It will come when we need it the most and it will come at the right time. I’ve seen it in training. The effort and tactical aspects are there. They’ve been consistent there and that is important to creating a healthy group. If your process is right, it is only a matter of time until it turns into a consistency of results.”
Rising will find consistency at the perfect time if it can covert its narrow losses into draws and those draws into wins. Owning homefield advantage down the stretch should help ease that transition. Six of its final nine matches are in Phoenix, but first, the club needs to close out its last two-game road swing in Vegas. The good news is Rising has earned a result in the final match on each of its last three, multigame road trips.
“There’s not much we can show, say or do to motivate players more,” said Guerra. “They’re motivated. They understand the opportunity we have ahead of us. I’m sure they’re going to see this opportunity and grab it. When this team needed to step up, it stepped up. I need to see that again, but I want to see it again after that, and again, and again.”