Match Preview Presented by Northern Arizona University
Phoenix Rising (4-4-4) returns to 38th St/Washington to face Oakland Roots SC (6-4-2) on Pride Night this Saturday, June 10 (7:30 p.m.).
Rising traveled away to a tough Pittsburgh side last Saturday and lost 1-0 despite controlling proceedings for much of the game. Rising were once again dominant in possession and created more chances, keeping the ball 65% of the match. Phoenix put four shots on target while limiting Pittsburgh to two. Despite those advantages, Rising was unable to get one past the Riverhounds goalkeeper.
“We did a lot of good things up to the final third,” Guerra said. “We were ok in the final third, maybe three or four times but we cannot be good just three or four times. We have to be good 10, 12, 15 times. We had to be much better. That is what we’ve been working on all week. It’s a change of mentality. We want to build. We want to be calm, to be able to absorb pressure, to create spaces behind. Once we create that space, I want to see more. Can we be more intense and more aggressive? If so, that’s going to lead to more situations in the final third.”
Rising signed Panos Armenakas the day before the game against Pittsburgh, and the midfielder gives Guerra another weapon in his arsenal to unlock defenses.
“We’re more versatile now,” Guerra said. “We have more flexibility. We can adopt different formations or shapes during build-up moments or during pressing moments. At the end of the day, our identity and principles did not change, but we have the ability now to look a bit different and have a different shape on the field if the game requires it. Panos also gives us a jump of intensity and aggressiveness in the final third. If you give this kid an inch, he will take a shot, he will move to space. He’ll find something.”
Rising are coming up against an Oakland side that has been in fine form. They’ve won four of five, including away wins at Colorado Springs and Birmingham Legion. Armenakas’ inclusion could give Rising a shot at beating a team on the rise. “Every guy that plays that position has the qualities that Panos has,” said Guerra. “But Panos being a guy that’s coming back to the U.S. after being in Europe for a while, being an American 24-year-old that wants to prove and show everyone in the league what he can do… We need to make sure we can utilize that towards our advantage. Utilize his motivation, utilize how hungry he is and how he wants to show everyone what he can do. We need to utilize that momentum in our favor. That’s what Panos brings to the table differently than some of the others we have already played in this league and that everybody knows.”