Phoenix Rising FC (7-7-5, 26 pts., 11th in West) at Orange County SC (7-6-7, 28 pts., 9th in West)
7:30 p.m., Friday, Champions Soccer Stadium at OC Great Park, Irvine, Calif.
Radio: SiriusXM FC (Ch. 85)
After a dramatic late draw against Rio Grande Valley FC last week, Phoenix Rising FC heads to Irvine, Calif. where they look to pick up three crucial points and spoil Orange County FC’s first official match in their new home, Champions Soccer Stadium. This week’s match-up is the USL Game of the Week and will only be available on ESPN3 and SiriusXM FC.
Phoenix Rising made a trip to Orange County last month, where Didier Drogba nailed a beautiful free kick in late stoppage time to pick up the draw and a point. Friday night’s match will be the end of a three-match away road trip and they hope to pick up the final three points.
Sitting two spots behind Orange County, Phoenix Rising is currently 11th in the Western Conference with 26 points coming from seven wins, seven losses, and five draws. Orange County is two points ahead of Phoenix Rising at 28 points with a record of seven wins, six losses, and seven draws having played one more match than Phoenix Rising. A win for Phoenix Rising would put them above Orange County and would put the elusive USL playoff position within reaching distance. A draw or loss against Orange County would be a major setback to Phoenix Rising’s playoff hopes.
Phoenix Rising’s back line will require some changes this week with both Amadou Dia and recent roster addition, Doueugui Mala sitting out this week’s match after receiving late red cards last week against Rio Grande Valley. We could expect to see these open positions filled by Victor Vasquez and Kody Wakasa. Didier Drogba did not see any playing time last week and looks to come back energized against Orange County in hopes to not only spoil their home opener, but also their playoff hopes. Carl Woszczynski has played great in the last two matches allowing only one goal, but we might expect to see Josh Cohen protecting the net this week against his former team.
Jason Johnson continued his hot scoring streak, adding his fifth goal of the season on a penalty kick. His five goals ties Drogba for the team lead. Drogba, in his nine appearances this season, has attempted a team-high 41 shots, almost twice the number as his nearest teammate in Chris Cortez (27).
Phoenix will be facing Orange County goal keeper Charlie Lyon who has five shutouts this season in his 20 appearances. Orange County continues to struggle offensively, not scoring in the last two home matches and losing or drawing in five out of the last six matches. Roy Meeus and Jerry van Ewijk lead the team in scoring with four goals each on the season, and van Ewijk leads the team with 28 shots attempted on the season.
POSSIBLE STARTING XI (4-2-3-1):
D- Vasquez (L), Ramage (C), Stewart (C), Wakasa (R)
DM- Watson, Timm
MF- Riggi (L), Wright-Phillips (C), Cortez (R)
POSSIBLE SUBSTITUTES: GK- Cohen; D- Greer, Arreola; MF- Lambert, Hamilton, Avila; F- Hurlow-Paonessa