The Monarchs continue their recent string of rematches as they travel to the new popup stadium at Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex in Scottsdale, Arizona for their second of three 2017 matches against the rebranded Phoenix Rising FC. Phoenix, bolstered by the appearance of player-owner Didier Drogba, has won its last two home games although they have only a 2-2-1 record over their last five matches.
Drogba has 3 goals in his two appearances to lead Phoenix along with Luke Rooney who also has three goals in his five appearances. Jason Johnson and Shaun Wright-Phillips with two goals apiece and six others with a single goal round out the scoring for Phoenix.
Right fullback Kody Wakasa and right winger Omar Bravo lead the team in assists and chance creation. Midfielders Matt Watson and Shaun Wright-Phillips along with Goalkeeper Josh Cohen lead the team in appearances as Patrice Carteron, the new French Head Coach hired since their initial match against the Monarchs on April 1st, continues to experiment with personnel and positions.
The Phoenix defense has been inconsistent all season long and has yet to develop any real consistency. Hopefully the experience of their two older English center backs, 35-year -old Jordan Stewart and 33-year-old Peter Ramage, will emerge and allow them to anchor the defense as the offense continues to emerge under Drogba.
The Monarchs continue to be lead by Chandler Hoffman’s 8 goals and Sebastian Velasquez’s 6 goals. Nick Besler has added 3, and Andrew Brody, James Moberg, Daniel Haber, Taylor Peay and RSL loanee Jose Hernandez all have two goals as well. In all, thirteen players have contributed to their league leading 32 goals.
With his recent flood of assists Sebastian Velasquez has become the assist leader in the Western Conference with 6 assists closely followed by Charlie Adams with 5. assists followed by Sebastian Velasquez with 4. Together with Andrew Brody and they remain also remain among the conference leaders in chance creation.
Six Monarchs have appeared in all 13 matches and continue to develop a chemistry which shines on the field. Nick Besler, who has played every minute this season, continues to unite a strong defensive line of Max Lachowecki, Michale Gallagher, James Moberg, and Taylor Peay with the Monarchs offensive which has score a league leading 32 goals. Between Conner Sparrow and Lalo Fenandez the Monarchs have recorded five cleans sheets and have scored two or more goals in 11 of their 13 matches.
With their victory earlier this year at Rio Tinto the Monarchs evened up their all time record against Phoenix at 4-4-0. Interesting the series is also tied at home and away although the games in Arizona have traditionally been much higher scoring affairs.
What to watch for
Phoenix is a team that continues to live or die on its offensive output. They have been shutout in 4 of their 5 losses so far this season and have yet to record a shutout of their own. It is hoped that steady string of appearances by Drogba and other new signings along with the adoption of a consistent 4-3-3 formation will ensure that they stay in consistent and competitive in all matches.
The Monarchs will be at full strength will any suspensions and in relatively good health. Charlie Adams and Emilio Orozco have missed recent matches due to injury but seem to be on the mend. Riggs Lennon continues to be the only Monarch yet to make an appearance for the team.
The Monarchs may also have a number of guest players down from RSL as the health of the parent club continues to improve and minutes become more scarce for the depth of the roster.
As noted below this will be a scorcher with the temperature at kickoff predicted to be 108 degrees even with the match being moved back an hour to allow the sun to go down. Look for both sides to fight for early momentum in an effort to avoid the long term effect of playing in such heat. A couple of early goals could easily be the determining factor in this match.
Real Monarchs: (4-2-3-1) Fernandez; Curinga, Gallagher, Moberg, Lachowecki; Besler, Adams; Brody, Velasquez, Haber; Hoffman
Phoenix Rising FC: (4-3-3): Cohen; Wakasa, Ramage, Stewart, Dia; Watson, Tim, Wright-Phillips; Bravo, Drogba, Johnson
When: Saturday, June 24, 9:00pm MDT
Where: Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex — Scottsdale, Arizona
Weather: 108 degrees, Clear