Phoenix Rising FC (8-7-6, 30 pts., 9th in West) vs. Seattle Sounders 2 FC (9-14-2, 29 pts., 10th in West)
7:30 p.m., Saturday, Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex, Scottsdale
TV: YouTube, YurView Arizona (Cox 4, 1004 HD in Phoenix; Cox 7, 1007 HD in Tucson)
The race for the playoffs continues for Phoenix Rising FC Saturday night, as Seattle Sounders FC 2 makes its only trip to the Valley this season.
Phoenix Rising comes in on a four-match unbeaten streak, with its most recent win coming against fifth-place Sacramento Republic 3-1 last Saturday night.
Chris Cortez scored a goal and had two assists, leading him to earn USL Team of the Week honors, as well as being the runner-up to Pittsburgh midfielder Kevin Kerr for the Player of the Week honor. Jason Johnson chipped in with a goal and an assist, and Peter Ramage added the key insurance goal to move Phoenix Rising to ninth in the Western Conference standings, just three points behind Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC and Oklahoma City Energy FC, who sit in seventh and eighth in the West respectively.
Phoenix Rising coach Patrice Carteron switched his lineup last week, re-inserting Kody Wakasa, Victor Vasquez and Jordan Stewart in the back four, and with Ramage the team played one of its strongest games of the season. And with the emergence of Carl Woszczynski in net for an injured Josh Cohen, the back has been as strong as it has been all season long.
Will we see Didier Drogba return to the lineup this week? He has missed the last two games due to an injury, but Cortez and Jason Johnson have stepped up in his absence. Last week also saw new signee Kevon Lambert get his first start at holding midfield, and it is most likely we will see him there again this week. Phoenix also has a short week, as Saturday’s game begins a stretch of three games in seven nights, so the roster will be tested to its limits this week.
Seattle comes into the match on the heels of a 1-0 loss to Tulsa Roughnecks FC on Wednesday night. Francisco Ugarte’s goal in the 72nd minute gave Tulsa the points, and kept Seattle below Phoenix in the standings coming into this crucial matchup.
Zach Mathers comes in as Seattle’s leading scorer with nine goals on the season. Irvin Parra, who has six goals on the season, has transferred to Orange County SC, and Felix Chenkam has five goals. Parra leads the team with four assists on the season. And while Bryan Meredith played in net Wednesday night, Tyler Miller has seen most of the play for the Sounders, as he has made 15 appearances between the posts.
STARTING XI (4-2-3-1)
D- Vasquez (L), Ramage (C), Stewart (C), Wakasa (R)
DM- Lambert (L), Watson (R)
MF- Johnson (L), Wright-Phillips (C), Riggi (R)
POSSIBLE SUBSTITUTES: GK- Cohen; D- Dia, Mala; MF- Hamilton, Avila, Timm; F- Drogba