Phoenix Rising FC (12-7-7, 43 pts., 5th in West) at Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 (5-15-8, 23 pts., 14th in West)
3 p.m. Sunday, Thunderbird Stadium, Vancouver, British Columbia.
TV: YouTube, YurView Arizona (Cox 4, 1004 HD in Phoenix; Cox 7, 1007 HD in Tucson)
The hottest team in all of USL continues its final road trip of the season and its push for the playoffs as Phoenix Rising travels north of the border to take on Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 in a Sunday afternoon matinee.
Phoenix Rising has risen to fifth in the Western Conference standings on the heels of a nine-match unbeaten streak, which was continued on Wednesday night when they defeated Seattle Sounders FC 2 1-0 on an Alessandro Riggi first half goal just before intermission.
Phoenix Rising has faced many obstacles on its way to this unbeaten streak. It lost Didier Drogba to injury and to a suspension during Wednesday night’s match; the King will be available for selection in Sunday’s match. One player who will not be available to head coach Patrice Carteron will be defender Victor Vasquez, who picked up two yellow cards in Wednesday’s match, but due to official’s error, did not receive a red card. The league went back and reviewed Wednesday night’s match and did suspend Vasquez for Sunday’s match.
Phoenix Rising continues to be led in scoring by Jason Johnson, who has been on a tear as of late. Johnson has eight goals on the season, most of them coming in this second half. Drogba has five goals, and Riggi has three along with Chris Cortez.
The back line has been strong for Phoenix Rising as of late, as it picked up its fourth clean sheet in its last six matches on Wednesday, and now have six clean sheets on the season. Between the efforts of Josh Cohen and defenders Vasquez, Jordan Stewart, Peter Ramage, Doueuegi Mala, and Kody Wakasa, the team has improved leaps and bounds on the defensive end.
Vancouver comes in winless in its last three contests, including a 2-1 loss last Sunday to Orange County SC. Zach Kobayashi opened the scoring for Orange County, but Marco Bustos equalized for Vancouver, before Jerry van Ewijk scored in the 83rd minute to give Orange County the points.
Bustos leads the team in scoring with eight goals on the season, and Thomas Vanner has four goals. Spencer Ritchey and Sean Melvin have shared the goalkeeping duties, with Ritchey seeing the more of the action with 16 appearances to Melvin’s 11. Vancouver is an aggressive team, committing the fourth-most fouls in the league at 412.
POSSIBLE STARTING XI (4-2-3-1)
D- Dia (L), Stewart (C), Mala (C), Wakasa (R)
DM- Hamilton (L), Lambert (R)
MF- Johnson (L), Wright-Phillips (C), Riggi (R)
POSSIBLE SUBSTITUTES: GK- Berner; D- Ramage, Greer; MF-Gray, Awako, Gavin; F- Cortez