Phoenix Rising FC (5-5-1, 16 pts., 10th in West) vs. Real Monarchs SLC (12-1-0, 36 pts., 1st in West)
8 p.m. Saturday, Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex, Scottsdale
TV: YouTube, YurView Arizona (Cox 7, 1007 HD)
The hottest place to be in the USL’s Western Conference will be Saturday night at the Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex in Scottsdale.
Not only will the temperature be hot, as it is expected to be around 110 degrees at kickoff, but the hottest team in the Western Conference comes in as Real Monarchs SLC will try to extend its USL record nine-match winning streak against Phoenix Rising FC.
“I’m sure the players will be motivated, when you play the leader you are always motivated,” Phoenix Rising FC head coach Patrice Carteron said. “I have a lot of respect for (Real Monarchs). I’ve been watching many games to know a lot about them. They have a fantastic No. 10 in (Sebastian) Velasquez, he’s doing a great job from the start.
“But at the moment, I’m more focused on how my team must progress and more focused on how to build the team to be more competitive. So of course I respect our opponent, but we have to think how we can do better ourselves.”
Phoenix Rising comes into the match off the heels of a thrilling 2-2 draw with Swope Park Rangers on Sunday. Forward Didier Drogba had a brace in the match, scoring in the 57th and 89th minutes to secure a point on the road for Phoenix Rising. It also earned Drogba USL Team of the Week honors with his pair of goals, and Drogba is now tied for the team lead in goals with Luke Rooney at three.
“I was really upbeat about the last game,” Carteron said. “We had two penalties on us. We had a difficult first half, we were losing 1-0, but we had the energy to come back 1-1 and then after the second penalty we’re losing 2-1, and mentally this time the boys were strong. I was very proud about our attitude.
“So from this point of view I hope the fans will really come and push us to a fantastic game against this good team in Real Monarchs. We really need to play 12 against 11 to give us a chance at one or three points.”
The team spent a lot of time this week really focusing on the opponent.
“We spent a lot of time together this week working on video and tactically,” Carteron said. “We are getting better, of course we are happy with the last two results, three points and a good game at home and to come back away and draw was also a good performance. But I think we can still progress, so we did work a lot.
“I am proud about what the boys did this week because they did accept to work really hard. This is our motivation is to qualify the club for the first time for the playoffs, so it’s a big motivation for us. And we have a lot of respect for Real Monarchs, but we’re going to approach this game very seriously to try to take one or three points.”
Rela Monarchs hasn’t lost a match since a 2-1 defeat to Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC back on Apr. 15. Since that defeat, Real Monarchs has outscored its opponents 22-6 during the nine-game stretch and the team has recorded four clean sheets. USL veteran Chandler Hoffman leads the team in scoring with eight goals on the season, which is currently third in the league, and Velasquez is not far behind with six. Velasquez leads the team with six assists, and Charlie Adams is right behind Velasquez with five assists.
In its most recent match Monday against Reno 1868 FC, Andrew Brody and Taylor Peay bookended a goal from Reno’s Antoine Hoppenot in the first half to give Real Monarchs a 2-1 win.
POSSIBLE STARTING XI (4-2-3-1)
D- Dia, Ramage, Stewart, Wakasa
AM-Johnson, Wright-Phillips, Bravo
F- Drgba (c)
POSSIBLE SUBS: GK-Woszczynski; D- Uzo, Granger; MF-Gavin, Avila, Arreola; F- Hurlow