The rebranded Phoenix Rising FC is currently sitting in seventh position in the Western Conference standings and can feel optimistic about their chances for the playoffs as they are unbeaten in the last seven games with 4 wins and 3 ties..
Phoenix also has the mixed blessing of 8 games remaining in their regular season schedule which is the most of any team in USL. With matches against both Tulsa Roughnecks FC and Sacramento Republic FC, who sit just above them in the standing, still to come, they might even make a run at Swope Park Rangers for four place in the standings and a first round playoff game at home. Their other five regular season games are all against team current well out of the playoffs.
With a 7-3-2 record at home, Phoenix are lead by Jamaican Jason Johnson with 7 goals followed Didier Drogba with 5 goals. Drogba, a member of the teams ownership group, has not played since Aug 5th, but was active in practice this week and appears ready to play against the Monarchs this week before the team leaves on a 3 match Cascadia swing on artificial turf fields. Omar Bravo, the former Chivas Guadalajara star who has the only goal against the Monarchs this season left the team in July.
The Rising defense has allowed 31 goals so far this season and has seemed shaky at times but has recorded 3 of the 4 shutouts during the current steak and has seen Victor Vasquez earn the sides first team of the week nod for a defensive player.
The Monarchs enter this match in danger of becoming winless in three straight matches for the first time this season. Recent signings Danny Cruz, Juan Ignacio Mare and Diego Calvo should see time as they continue to work into the Monarchs squad. Nick Besler and Connor Sparrow should also continue seeing playing time with the Monarchs along with Jose Hernandez, Reagan Dunk and Justin Schmidt.
Chandler Hoffman remains 2 goals behind Dane Kelly and former RSL man, Enzo Martinez, in the race for the USL Golden Boot and looks to be a strong contender for MVP this season. Charlie Adams and Hoffman each have 7 assists is just two behind Chis Wehan of Reno for the USL lead and closely followed by Sebastian Valesquez who has 6.
This will be the tenth match between the Monarchs and Phoenix in their three years of USL competition. The overall series stands at 4-4-1 and, interestingly, the series is also tied at both the home and away venues. The Monarchs are 1-0-1 this season with the sole tie being the last match held in Scottsdale in the July heat.
What to watch for
The Monarchs need to reestablish some offensive rhythm and maintain their effort for a full 90 minutes. While it is likely that, baring injury, any substitutes will be on the offensive side to continue the integration of new players look for the Monarchs to put attempt to put forth a full 90 minute effort on both sides of the ball.
The Monarchs will might come out in a more defensive posture during the start of each half as Phoenix Rising has a strong tendency to push very hard during the initial 10 minutes of each half.
Retaining the majority of possession is another goal the Monarchs might strive for in their ongoing attempt to prepare for the playoffs. Look for a number of short passes and patience on the ball especially if they manage to take the lead.
Real Monarchs: (4-2-3-1) Sparrow; Curinga, Moberg, Peay, Lachowecki; Besler, Adams; Haber, Velasquez, Brody; Hoffman
Phoenix Rising FC: (4-2-3-1): Cohen; Wakasa, Ramage, Stewart, Vasquez; Lambert, Gavin; Johnson, Wright-Phillips, Riggi; Cortez
When: Saturday, September 16, 7:30 pm MDT
Where: Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex — Scottsdale, AZ
Weather: 91 degrees, Clear