Match Preview Presented by Northern Arizona University
Rising (2-2-4) returns to 38th St/Washington to face Hartford Athletic (1-5-2) this Saturday, May 13 (7:30 p.m.) on Health and Wellness Night presented by Equality Health.
Phoenix is unbeaten at home (2-0-2 across all competitions) early this season while Hartford’s lone victory came on the road against Western Conference opponent, Oakland, 2-1, on April 15.
“The group is motivated,” said Rising Head Coach Juan Guerra. “They’re a bit thin at the moment because of some injuries but it’s good to see some guys stepping up. It has been a good week of training after a disappointing result in Florida. Now, we have the opportunity to bounce back in front of our people.”
“We focused a lot on the final third this week,” continued Guerra. “So far this season we have been able to sustain pressure in the opponent’s half. Now we’re looking to do that while being dynamic and adding aggressive runs, playing balls in-behind the back line. The team has responded well. The group keeps growing. They are strong mentally. I’m looking forward to seeing them bounce back.”
Hartford has given up 17 goals this season, one less than only Birmingham. Those two sides met twice already this season with Legion winning 1-0 in Hartford on March 25 and 3-2 in Birmingham on April 30. The other common opponents between Phoenix and Hartford so far this season are Charleston, which upended the Athletic 3-2 on April 8 and Monterey Bay, which opened the season with a 5-3 win against Hartford in California.
Facing a side that has given up an average of 2.6 goals per game while on the road this season might be just what Rising needs to inject extra confidence into an offense looking to take the next step.
“We want to get better in the final third,” said Guerra. “We can build out of the back and create spaces to play through an opponents’ press, but we need to be more aggressive – more runs, more movement, more combinations that lead to chances created and shots on target. But we have only one priority – to make sure we get three points on Saturday.”