Phoenix Rising FC (2-2-0, 6 pts., 10th in West) vs. Reno 1868 FC (0-3-2, 2 pts., 15th in West)
7:30 p.m. Saturday, Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex
TV: You Tube stream, YurView Arizona (Cox 7, 1007 HD)
For Phoenix Rising FC interim coach Rick Schantz, the last 12 days have been a whirlwind.
Going from a victory over Swope Park Rangers, to learning that coach Frank Yallop had decided to step down, to becoming the interim coach, to leading the squad in a friendly last week in Tucson, Schantz has handled the change quite well.
“Frank had told me in the beginning that he wasn’t going to do this forever and he was missing his family and didn’t know what the future was going to hold for him,” Schantz said. “Of course I thought that meant through one season, but he missed his family and family comes first.
“So he sat down with Corey and myself and broke the news, it was pretty emotional and it was really tough. He’s a mentor and a friend. We had to gather ourselves and go out and train that day. And it really didn’t hit me until Tuesday after training last week. We came into the coaches office and we sit down and recap training and go over what the plan is and usually with Frank it’s lighthearted, and then I realized it’s just the two of us. That’s when it hit me and it was tough. I realized ‘Oh my gosh, I really got to roll up my sleeves and just move forward and do what the club needs.'”
Schantz leads his club into Saturday’s match against Reno 1868 FC on a high, winning the last two matches against LA Galaxy II and Swope Park Rangers.
Phoenix Rising goes into the match however missing right back Kody Wakasa, who is serving a red card suspension he received in the Swope Park match. Schantz hinted that either A.J. Gray or Brock Granger will most likely see time at the right back spot.
“A.J. Gray had been training a lot as our right back,” Schantz said. “A.J. has some incredible pace and a lot of talent and for him its probably going to be minutes and time, I think this is a good opportunity for him.”
Many fans also hope to see Didier Drogba make his debut with the club, though Schantz talked about where he feels Drogba may be in terms of fitness for the match.
“For him (Drogba),he would tell everybody he’s two to three weeks out on his fitness levels,” Schantz said. “We would slowly like to transition him into the team instead of saying ‘Hey, here you go, you’re starting, we’re going to run you out there and sub you when you’re tired,’ but he’s working with our fitness guys and the docs and the medical team and they keep advising me every day where he is.
“Most likely he won’t see the team this week, but maybe next week or the week after we’ll start to transition him into the roster.”
What concerns Schantz the most about Reno is the pressure that comes from the left hand side, and how important it will be to control that part of Reno’s game.
“The way Reno plays, they’re pretty pacy on that left side, so I’d expect to see A.J. and a little of Brock Granger, who’s been at the club for a while. We’re not totally dead set on who’s going to do the job, but we’re working on it this week.”
Reno will also look to forward Dane Kelly to lead the Reno attack, and expect Mackenzie Pridham and Junior Burgos to also be heavily involved in the Reno gameplan.
“You start with Dane Kelly, he’s a perennial All-Pro forward in this league,” Schantz said. “He’s played at the highest level. He’s someone you have to pay attention to. We can’t fall asleep at the back, we have to stay sharp.
“As far as their overall team play, going forward they are definitely creative. Their outside backs like to get involved in the attack and the two central midfielders, they come really deep to pick up the ball and can make the plays, so it’s an interesting setup because they play a modified 4-4-2 so it will be interesting, I think man for man it might end up in a situation where whichever team performs the best is obviously going to come out in top, and we’re hoping its really, really hot and they don’t want to run very much.”
POSSIBLE STARTING XI (4-1-3-2)
GK- Cohen; D- Gray, Stewart, Ramage (c), Vasquez; Holding MF- Watson; MF- Riggi, Rooney, Wright-Phillips; F- Bravo, Cortez.
Reserves: GK- Woszczynski; D- Granger, Greer; MF- Gavin; F- Seth, Hurlow-Paonessa, Johnson