Phoenix Rising FC Match Preview Presented by NAU
Vying for a top four finish and the right to host a first-round playoff match, Phoenix Rising FC (12-8-12) hosts New Mexico United (11-14-7) at 38th St/Washington, Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Last time out, Phoenix came from behind for the second time in eight days to salvage a 1-1 draw against Orange County, earn a berth in the 2023 playoffs and stretch its unbeaten streak to eight games.
That run began with the team doing something that had eluded it all season – coming from behind to win a match. Prior to August 26, Phoenix was 0-7-2 when allowing the first goal. Down 1-0 and 2-1 in Las Vegas, Rising scored three to win, 3-2 and start this unbeaten streak. But, if you ask Rising Head Coach Juan Guerra, the lights switched on for this team on July 26.
“Losing 4-0 in Sacramento was the day we could have gone one side or the other,” he said. “The team made the decision to go the route we expected to them go. When things are going well, when you’re winning, everything is easier. When things don’t go well, you have to coach more. The team has to be more resilient. You have to support and make sure you can still challenge players. When things don’t go well you need to take a step forward and say, ‘we’re here.’”
Rising’s opponent Saturday night, New Mexico may have made that statement last time out, winning 2-0 at home against Louisville despite playing a man down for 37 minutes and two-men down for the final 15 minutes.
“It was a very good game for them,” said Guerra. “They were set up well in the low, compact block. They were quick in transition. New Mexico is a good team. They’re going through a turbulent moment, which is normal. There was a coaching change halfway through the year. Two or three new players arrived halfway through the year and little by little, they’re finding their way. They’re going to finish strong.”
The silver lining for Rising is that New Mexico has yet to take its success on the road. United has not won a road match since July 1 (1-0 vs. El Paso) and has only won three away matches this season. The other two coming on March 18 at Miami (1-0) and May 17 at Loudoun (3-1).
“If you would have told me after the loss to [New Mexico] in Open Cup… that they would be coming here with two games to go and we’d be in the playoffs, continuing to fight for a home playoff spot – I would have said great,” Guerra said. “There is a lot of motivation for us in having them here Saturday night. It’s going to be a very good game. I hope the fan base shows up as they have in the past and we put on a strong performance. It has to feel like 8,000 vs. 11. That is the environment we want to create.”