Match Preview Presented by Northern Arizona University
Phoenix Rising (3-2-4) travels to Orange County (2-6-3) this Saturday at 7 p.m. (live on Arizona’s Family Sports and Entertainment Network and ESPN+).
Rising continued its unbeaten streak at home (3-0-2) with a commanding 3-1 victory over Hartford Athletic last time out. Phoenix now turns to Orange County in pursuit of its first back-to-back wins of the season.
Rising had 65.8% of possession against Hartford, which allowed the team to dominate the game and create plenty of chances.
“We want to keep making sure we can control games and keep possession,” Rising Head Juan Guerra said. “But also, how much are we creating with that possession? If we’re going to have the ball for 60 to 70 percent of the game, I want to make sure we’re being aggressive. We need to be intense and make sure that possession leads to chances created.”
Conversely, Orange County has struggled to hold onto the ball this season – averaging just 45% possession. OC’s lack of possession translated into a lack of results. The club has won only one of its last five matches while conceding 10 goals in that span. That one win did come recently, a 1-0 win against Sacramento on Wednesday, May 17, but even in that victory OC was content to give up possession of the ball. Orange County held possession for just 38% of that match.
“This is a team where you can identify a lot of good players but collectively, they’re struggling at times,” Guerra said. “They’re a team that individually, if you go name-by-name it’s a team that has a lot of depth.”
Despite their struggles, Orange County has one of the USL’s most lethal marksmen. Milan Iloski won the 2022 USL Golden Boot with 22 goals in 31 games. He scored the winning goal for Orange County against Sacramento Republic on Wednesday.
“Milan [Iloski] is a player that’s been proven to score a lot of goals in this league,” Guerra said. “He’s a player that sometimes, he’s not very active or it looks like he’s not participating but give him only one or two chances and he will make sure to punish you.”
Whilst Rising should be favored against a team near the bottom of the standings, Guerra wants to guard against complacency, especially considering Orange County picked up both wins it has this season at home (2-3-2). “This is the USL championship,” Guerra said. “We cannot be the team that gets burned thinking that this team is not doing well and it’s going to be an easy game. There are no easy games in this league. If you’re not tuning in, if you’re not ready to play, you will pay the price for it. That is one of the biggest things I want to see this week. Can we keep growing? Can we keep finding consistency in the way we’re doing things? Can we start winning games back-to-back, because that’s going to dictate how high in the table we’re going to end up in November.”