Rising Match Preview Presented by NAU
Phoenix Rising FC travels to Oakland to take on Roots SC this Wednesday, July 27. That match is scheduled to kick off at 7 p.m. on Bally Sports Arizona and ESPN+.
Rising enters the match, riding a two-game, 185-minute shutout streak thanks to its defense and goalkeeper Ben Lundt. The 6’6” German leads the league in saves with 66 and ranks fifth in the league in shutouts with five after picking up two last week vs. Louisville and Sacramento.
“We were concerned about the set pieces against Sacramento,” said head coach Rick Schantz. “We did well there. They had a counterattack chance at the beginning of the second half, but Ben came up huge. Then we pinned them back in the second half. The first half was old school Phoenix Rising.
We’re just not staying calm and composed in the final third. If one or two of those chances went in it could have ended up being three or four nil by the end of the night. We missed a tap-in against Louisville on Wednesday and then Lambert missed one against Sacramento. The soccer gods just aren’t being favorable to us now.”
The draws pushed Rising up a position in the standings, making Wednesday’s matchup with Roots No. 9 vs. No. 8 in the West ordeal. A Phoenix win would put the team just three points behind LA Galaxy II for the seventh and final spot in the West. An Oakland win would put Roots in a playoff spot and make the hill Phoenix needs to climb to qualify for the postseason that match taller.
“Juan [Guerra] has done an excellent job in Oakland,” said Schantz. “He has them playing exciting soccer. There is a lot of flexibility out in their lineup, which makes them a hard team to play against. Their No. 9 (Ottar Magnus Karlsson) is a handful. They’re just having issues with consistency and quality, much like us. The USL Championship is a difficult league with a lot of parity. It can be challenging at times. I am proud of Juan and what he has accomplished in his first year.”
The former Phoenix Rising assistant coach will miss the match due to a red card he picked up in the first half of a 2-0 loss to Vegas on Saturday. Oakland will also be without goalkeeper, PA Blanchett, who is also serving a red card suspension. Phoenix will be without the services of Kevon Lambert, who picked up his eighth caution of the season against Sacramento, also on July 23.
Rising’s offense, which continues to lead the league in shots (351) has gone two games without a goal vs. the stingy defenses of Louisville (15 GA) and Sacramento (19 GA), but it should be a different story against Oakland (35 GA).
“When we’re not scoring goals, we begin doubting ourselves,” said Schantz. “We’re not relaxed or playing free. Santi [Moar] is a competitor. He knows he can help us win games. He puts a lot of pressure himself to be the man, but overall the last three weeks have been very positive. I told the team, whatever doubt you’re feeling, leave it at the door. We keep believing we’re going to accomplish something great. I will keep believing until the final whistle of the final game. The way the West is now, you string three or four wins together and you’re in the top five.”