Phoenix Rising FC (1-2-0, 3 pts., 11th in West) vs. Swope Park Rangers (3-0-0, 9 pts., 4th in West)
7 p.m. Sunday, Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex
TV, You Tube stream: YurView Arizona (Cox 7, 1007 HD), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=twXXZAnAx88
USL Match Center: http://www.uslsoccer.com/phoenixrisingfc-swopeparkrangers-905507
The hype and the hoopla have finally come and gone. Didier Drogba is here and ready to become a member of Phoenix Rising FC.
But now it’s time to turn focus back to the on-the-field product, and a huge three points on the line Sunday night as one of the Western Conference’s top teams, Swope Park Rangers, comes to Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex to wrap up Week 5 of the USL season.
Phoenix Rising has had 14 days since its last match, a 2-1 come-from-behind victory over LA Galaxy II. Luke Rooney scored a brace and earned himself USL Team of the Week honors in that match.
Phoenix Rising will also be leaning on goalkeeper Josh Cohen in this highly-contested match. Cohen has made nine saves over three matches, including four saves in the match against Galaxy II.
Swope Park comes to town undefeated on the season, and will look to Kharlton Belmar to start the attack for Swope. In two starts, Belmar has scored two goals. He also came off the bench and created the game-winning goal in the most recent game against Sacramento Republic FC. He was the USL Rookie of the Year in 2015 while playing for Portland Timbers 2.
Midfielder Mark Anthony Gonzalez is another player to watch. He was the leading scorer for SPR last season and in his only game since returning from the Canadian U-23 National Team, he has already scored a game-winning goal. Defender Amer Didic was on the most recent Team of the Week and is probably one of the best defenders in the league. Once he and Oumar Ballo became the starting center backs last season, they have lost just once, the USL Cup.
Swope will play a 4-3-3 just like their senior team, Sporting Kansas City. They play this formation all the way down to their youngest Academy team. Because of that, as different players start from game to game, they all know their roles within the system.
As for a weakness, Swope is a really young team. They have several Academy players who are teenagers who are likely to get minutes and a lot fewer USL veterans than all the independent USL clubs. Those young kids are likely much more prone to mistakes and could leave the team exposed.
POSSIBLE STARTING XI (4-1-3-2)
GK- Josh Cohen; D- Kody Wakasa, Jordan Stewart, Peter Rammage, Victor Vasquez; MF- Matt Watson, Alessandro Riggi, Luke Rooney, Shaun Wright-Phillips; F- Omar Bravo, Chris Cortez.
POSSIBLE SUBS: GK Carl Woszczynski, D Brock Granger, J.J. Greer; MF Blair Gavin, A.J. Gray; F- Jason Johnson, Matthew Hurlow-Paonessa.
Firebird Rising correspondent Chad Smith contributed to this article.