Match Day 28 will see San Antonio back home for only the third time since the beginning of August. This is their only home match in their current six-game stretch and their second match of the year against Phoenix Rising. We once again caught up with Aaron Blau (@fitbawfoto) from Firebird Soccer (@Firebirdsite) to see what’s new in Arizona. Here we go into another Six Pointer Preview.
- 1 – (RB90) It has only been a couple weeks since these teams got together, but take us through what Phoenix has done since then. What stands out?
(AB) Phoenix Rising last faced San Antonio on Wednesday, August 22nd. The team followed that game on Saturday with a match against the Switchbacks, which ended in a decisive 4-0 victory. Since then, the team has had to time off but faces Rio Grande Valley on Wednesday, September 4. We have had a few injuries, losing team captain Solomon Asante in the match against San Antonio, and Jason Johnson early in the match against Colorado Springs. Both players had minor injuries, and we do expect to see them back in the lineup.
In other lineup news, defensive midfield Kevon Lambert and striker Shaft Brewer Jr. have been called into International play, Lambert for Jamaica and Brewer Jr. for the USA U-20 team. Additionally, the team added LAFC’s Josh Perez to its stable of recent loanees.
- 2 – Last time we focused on the San Antonio player ties – let’s look at the rest of a very loaded Rising roster this time. We gotta start with Drogba. How would you grade his involvement with the team over these last two years?
Didier Drogba’s association with Phoenix Rising FC took brand recognition to another level. He made a huge impact last season, and while his on-field contribution has been reduced in the 2018 campaign, his off-the-field and on-the-sidelines impact is constantly being felt. He took a very long break from the team as he assisted BBC with their World Cup coverage, but is back and training with the team. We expect to see him back playing again in a limited role, culminating in an October 13 career finale that will be unlike anything Phoenix has ever seen.
- 3 – Chris Cortez and Soloman Asante – 13 goals each. Both having incredible seasons. What makes them so special this year in particular?
Solomon Asante … what can we say about him? Sometimes big things come in small packages. His intensity is palpable. He certainly is one of USL’s breakout players of the year. At 30-years-old Chris, Cortez is an elder statesman on the team. His calm demeanor is a settling influence on the team. The team has figured out that the best way to score is to put the ball at his feet in the box and let the magic happen, and that plan has led to his goal total.
- 4 – Carl Woszczynski – 71 saves and 9 clean sheets in 21 appearances. Tremendous stuff from your top keeper. Tell us more about him and the defensive philosophy of Rising and what makes it work so well?
Woz is Phoenix Rising FC’s longest-tenured player. He is a true family man and has made a great life for his family in Phoenix. He is incredibly intense on the field and serves the role of a field general very differently than the 2017 starter, Josh Cohen. He had a recent run of bad luck in July, which resulted from uncoordinated backline play as well as bad luck. He was replaced by Zach Lubin in goal, who put up two consecutive clean sheets until he was caught by a cleat to the face in the Colorado Springs match (resulting in a red card for the Switchbacks player) that caused him to need ten stitches. Woz was ready and substituted for him, and the two keepers shared another clean sheet for three straight.
- 5 – San Antonio was embarrassed the first time these teams got together – in more ways than one – will this be more of the same? What’s your prediction for the match?
Phoenix has had a very nice run as of late. 10 goals (including 4 against San Antonio) and three straight clean sheets. I believe the affair will be a little bit tighter and am looking for a 2-1 victory for Phoenix, with an early goal, but needed something in the 80′ to close it out.
- 6 – What’s your prediction for where Phoenix will finish on the table and how will their season end?
All things are pointing to a top 4 finish and a home playoff match. As long as we are there, I’ll be a happy camper. With a win over RGV on Wednesday, and potentially against San Antonio on Saturday, we could be in first place in the conference with only 6 matches left on the season. That’s a nice way to send Didier Drogba off the pitch for one last time.
Current Form (W-D-L)
San Antonio FC – L L L W W, 2018 Home Record 7-3-3
Phoenix Rising – L W W W W, 2018 Road Record 7-3-3
San Antonio FC: 40 points, 34 GF, 37 GA, -3 GD, 8th in USL West
Phoenix Rising: 53 points, 54 GF, 28 GA, +26 GD, 2nd in USL West
All-Time History (W-D-L)
As Phoenix Rising, San Antonio is 2-0-1 against them. They split three games as Arizona United in 2016, going 1-1-1. All time vs the franchise, San Antonio maintains a slight edge with a 3-1-2 record.
8/22/18 @ PHX – PHX 4, SA 0
9/8/2018 @ SA
It was one of the worst performances in San Antonio FC history the last time these two teams met just a couple weeks ago. Restrepo was embarrassed on a bad mistake in his own end, and former SAFC players Devin Vega and Billy Forbes both got on the scoresheet in a one-sided drubbing that finished 4-0 to Phoenix. Phoenix even went down to ten men in the second half, but San Antonio still couldn’t get going. If you can bear to watch them again, here are the highlights:
The Matchup (W-D-L)
Phoenix Rising (16-5-6) at San Antonio FC (11-7-9) #SAvPHX
Toyota Field, Saturday, September 8th
Kickoff 7:30 pm Central Time
Where to Watch: ESPN+
Key to victory
It was a very happy Labor Day for San Antonio FC as they finished off a season sweep of Real Monarchs with a 2-1 victory on Monday night. It was their second win in as many seasons away to the Monarchs – both by the same 2-1 scoreline – and most impressively it was the first home loss of the year for the Monarchs in fourteen home matches in 2018. Not bad. Not bad at all.
Guzman continues on his blistering scoring pace. He has now scored in six of his last nine appearances. For the season San Antonio is now 6-0-1 when Guzman scores in a match this season. This is definitely a dumbing down of the situation, but basically, if Guzman scores, San Antonio wins. Imagine if he had been healthy all season long? He’s one candidate for second half team MVP.
The other is without question loanee Lance Laing. All he has done is tally a goal and an assist in each of his two starts in a San Antonio FC uniform. The only other San Antonio FC players to tally a goal and an assist in the same game this season are Kris Tyrpak (he’s no longer even on the team) and Mikey Lopez. And both happened in the same game! Way back on March 24th vs St Louis. Talk about an impressive beginning with the team. We’re already sad his stay is only temporary. But if he keeps performing like this, he could go down in San Antonio soccer history all the same.
Despite an ugly four-match losing streak, when you step back, it’s now six wins in ten matches for SAFC in the second half of this season. Not terrible. Especially since this team only won 5 matches in the entire first half of the season. Seven matches remain for San Antonio to keep adding to that number.
Next up is the second of two matches with Phoenix. San Antonio will no doubt want another chance at the team that embarrassed them less than three weeks ago in the Arizona desert. On the surface of things, it’s a very tough matchup for SAFC. But then again, they just swept the number one team in USL West. If they can beat the Monarchs twice, theoretically they should be able to beat anyone. Which is one of the many reasons their inconsistent play throughout the season has been so tough to take? The two games against Real Monarchs are glimpses of who this team might have been. The good news is, enough time remains that it could still turn into who they become.
This will not be an easy match. Phoenix has gone four matches and counting without giving up a goal, winning all four matches, and they have a monstrous +26 goal differential on the season; the best in USL West. As much joy as Forbes and Vega had in scoring against their old team in Phoenix, you know they’ll want to do it again at Toyota Field in front of San Antonio fans. San Antonio will have the advantage of an extra couple days of rest as Phoenix comes off a midweek match against RGV. Laing seems to be a real difference maker in the center of the field for SAFC and Guzman is on fire. We think they’ll take out another top USL team this week. We’re calling this one for San Antonio FC.
San Antonio FC – 2
Phoenix Rising – 1
SAFC “Did You Know?”
Only Greg Cochrane and Sebastien Ibeagha have played more minutes for SAFC in one single season than the 2,556 minutes that former SAFC-man and current Phoenix Rising player Billy Forbes logged in 2017.