Match Preview presented by NAU
Phoenix Rising’s initial road trip of 2022 will see the club travel to Las Vegas for the first of three meetings, two of which will take place at Cashman Field in Nevada.
In the first action of 2022 last weekend, Rising exploded for four first-half goals before coasting to a 4-2 win at Wild Horse Pass, while Vegas fell, 2-0, in New Mexico.
“I watched Vegas play against New Mexico,” said Rising head coach Rick Schantz. “They’re very similar to what they were in 2021. They’re extremely good in transition offensively. They’re a little weak in defensive transition. Their pressing is similar to ours. They can get exposed in direct football. New Mexico played direct, playing in-behind quite a bit, which caused problems for Las Vegas.”
Based on Schantz’s comments and Rising’s attacking style, Saturday’s game sets up to be another classic Phoenix/Vegas shootout.
The biggest thorn in Vegas’ side in 2021 was Santi Moar, who found the back of the net five times. Coming off a rare match last weekend in which Moar did not appear on the scoresheet, Rising’s 2021 Golden Boot Winner will be amped to open his 2022 account against Vegas on Saturday.
“Santi is fine, he was just pressing too much for a goal,” said Schantz after Rising’s win vs. Monterey Bay. “He always wants to score. He wants to do well and be entertaining. Sometimes that makes it hard to play simple and take what comes to him.”
Last time Phoenix traveled to Vegas, Moar took a load off on one of the mattresses that lined the pitch at Cashman Field during a goal celebration after he put the visitors ahead, 3-0, in the 17th minute. The Spaniard added a second in the 70th minute of that nine goal, 6-3, Rising victory.
One of its nine road victories in 2021, Rising was the only club to secure 20 points from away matches. Phoenix was able to lead the USL Championship in away points despite starting out with a 1-2-0 record on the road – something the club intends to improve upon this weekend in Las Vegas.
“It’s a common thread here at Phoenix Rising,” said Schantz. “We do so well when we’re being aggressive and tenacious and attacking that it’s difficult for us to say, ‘ok, now let’s sit back and counter.’”
Having converted 31% of its chances against Monterey in Week 1, up 20% from its average in 2021, expect Rising to score early and often once again this Saturday at 7 p.m., on Bally Sports Arizona and ESPN+. The key difference this time around will be what Phoenix does after it takes the lead.