Rising Match Preview Presented by NAU.
Phoenix Rising (7-6-0) hosts El Paso Locomotive FC (6-6-3) this Saturday, June 11, at Wild Horse Pass (7:30 pm.).
Out 10 matches with a hamstring strain, Rising finally got James Musa back into the mix against Hartford on May 28. A week later vs. Birmingham, Aodhan Quinn made his return to the lineup after missing three matches with an injury. Returning two key pieces of the puzzle to the mix, Rising head coach Rick Schantz hoped to build on the momentum of a 2-1 road victory in Hartford, only to get shut out at home for the first time since October 2018.
“We won more duels,” said Schantz of the match against Birmingham. “We won the possession battle. We had more shots, more shots on target. The only thing we lost was what matters – goals.”
Rising created a remarkable scoring opportunity in the 36th minute, when Marcus Epps brought down a driven ball with his chest and was off to the races. Cutting in from the right flank, Epps played a ball back into the middle for Joey Calistri to strike with his first touch. Calistri hit the ball well, but Birmingham goalkeeper Matt Van Oekel read the play and made a spectacular diving save to lead Legion FC to the, 1-0, shutout win.
“We must keep moving forward,” said Schantz. “When you’re in a difficult moment, the more changes you make, there’s a chance you’re making it more difficult on yourself. We must get back to what we do well and keep it simple. This week, we’ll do a lot of shooting and finishing.”
In El Paso, Rising will face a like-minded opponent. While Phoenix leads USL in shot attempts with 228, El Paso ranks second with 213. Locomotive FC leads the league in goalscoring (29), a spot Rising has laid claim to in each of the last three campaigns.
“For El Paso, everything goes through Richie Ryan in the midfield,” said Schantz. “Josue Gomez is a fantastic wide player for them. Luis Solignac is a very good veteran player that can score goals. They let their outside backs get forward. They’re very similar to us in their style and approach to the game. They a bit more possession oriented. If you sit back, they’ll just pick you apart.”
The third key cog in Rising’s machine, Jamaican National Team defender Kevon Lambert remains unavailable for Schantz as he is representing the Reggae Boyz in the Concacaf Nations Cup through June 16. In his absence, Phoenix added “Koze” Donasiyano on loan from MLS side Nashville SC late last week. A central midfielder that can fill the role of Lambert, Schantz is excited to add the 24-year-old to the squad.
“I watched him before, I know what he can add as far as tenacity and work rate,” said Schantz. “Everyone speaks highly of him. We know there is no one that will work harder than him. That is what we need right now.”