Phoenix Rising Match Preview presented by NAU
Rising travels to Sacramento, Saturday at 7 p.m. (live on 3TV & ESPN+), looking to make it three for three in Western Conference Finals since 2018.
The site of the team’s worst loss of the regular-season, Rising is embracing the opportunity to rectify that 4-0 defeat on July 26.
“I saw the players in the locker room after that game,” said Rising Head Coach Juan Guerra. “How I saw them at breakfast the next morning before we traveled to Monterey… They were upset and committed. They absorbed a lot of adversity in a very bad result. [Because of all that] and because we’re not playing at home, we want to go back to Sacramento and play a final.
The turning point of our season was losing 4-0 to Sacramento away. How you bounce back from adversity… How you fight back or push forward when things aren’t going well is what dictates how far you make it in anything, not just sports, but also life.”
Sacramento visited Phoenix roughly a month after the initial meeting. Manuel Arteaga (60) and Danny Trejo (65) scored minutes apart to lead Phoenix to a 2-1 win. Republic held a 52-48 edge in possession that game, completing just six more passes than Rising, 386-380.
Phoenix has taken its possession game to a new level during this postseason run, completing a season-high 781 passes against Orange County last weekend. The team’s previous high was recorded a week earlier, in a 4-3 win against San Diego in the opening match of the playoffs.
“We feel strong,” said Guerra. “We feel the need to keep pushing forward and growing. We have belief and ambition. We want to make sure the dream is not done this week. To do that we have to go through Sacramento. It’s going to be a hostile environment with a packed stadium. Many factors are going to go against us, but we already understand that. We’ve done it for two weeks.”
In both matches, Guerra has brought players off the bench to make a difference when it mattered most. In San Diego, it was Erickson and Arteaga that set up Dariusz Formella for the game winning goal. In Orange County, it was Erickson to Emil Cuello that made it a 2-1 final.
“We have enough depth on this team to make substitutions and make sure we continue to get better as the game progresses,” said Guerra. “That has been key for us in this playoff run. We’ve given opportunities to every field player on the bench. We have the tools. We have the assets. Now we have an opportunity to play a final.”
The turning point of the last two playoff wins has been the team’s response in the face of adversity. The ability to refocus after giving up a penalty kick goal that sent the match into overtime vs. San Diego. Finding a second gear on the left flank after 116 minutes of action in Orange County. Where does that come from?
“It’s losing to Sacramento 4-0 on the road and understanding you have 48 hours to bounce back and go again,” answered Guerra. “It’s understanding this is a new project with so many new players at the beginning of the year. These players hadn’t even put on the jersey before and they were feeling pressure because there were important players that left the organization. These new players have come in and absorbed that pressure since day one. This group has been under pressure since before they got on the place to come to Phoenix. People were saying who are these guys? How are they going to represent us? Now, nine months later, look where we are… look what these guys have done. We want to make sure we can keep dreaming.”