In search of their first points of 2017 after a 2-0 defeat in Salt Lake City last weekend, Phoenix Rising FC will be happy to return to the desert, where they will take on LA Galaxy II this Saturday.
“Los Dos”, as the USL side of the LA Galaxy are known, have a new look and a new coach, but they can never be underestimated. Phoenix, formerly Arizona United, has had some success against their fellow fourth-year club, but it’s been extremely hit-and-miss.
Galaxy II swept all three matches against the Arizona side last season, avenging United’s sweep of Los Dos in 2015. Why is LA so difficult to pin down? It’s pretty simple.
The LA Galaxy have one of the deepest academy setups in Major League Soccer, and one of the most expensive, most talented first teams as well. As the squad in between, Los Dos is subject to mercurial swings in performance based upon the players in need of minutes on any given matchday.
This season, for example, only three players have featured in all 180 minutes of play so far: academy products Hugo Arellano and Ethan Zubak, and new signing Jon Kempin, who, in 2010, became Sporting Kansas City’s first-ever Homegrown signing. Kempin is on an MLS contract, and as such, is technically on loan to Los Dos.
One thing is certain for Saturday, however. Los Dos will be without Arellano, who is training with the United States U-20’s, and veteran midfielder Jaime Villarreal, who is serving a three-game red card suspension. Villarreal was sent off in the 86th minute of LA’s 3-0 loss in San Antonio last weekend, or else would have been the fourth Galaxy II player to see the pitch for every minute of the young season. With the MLS club struggling, it’s likely that the two starters will be replaced by fellow reserves or academy players, rather than loans from the Galaxy.
In short, there is literally no way to know who Rising FC will face on Saturday. To be fair, Los Dos head coach Mike Muñoz may be fearing the same thing about Phoenix.
Rising’s head coach Frank Yallop has employed two significantly different lineups in two matches this season, with similar results: zero goals, zero points. Six Phoenix players have accumulated 180 minutes, but Week 1 starters Luke Rooney and Mike Seth were on the bench last weekend, seeming to signal a wholesale scrap of the team’s initial offensive game plan. Phoenix still failed to get on the board, and there is at least one more change that should be made.
Perhaps Rising FC’s most productive player, Alessandro Riggi has played just 34 minutes this season through two cameo appearances, but has shown he is more than capable of linking the midfield to striker Omar Bravo’s preferred left side. Riggi also provides the swagger of a natural goal scorer, and right now, Phoenix needs goals.
Last week, San Antonio FC had success spreading the field on Los Dos, and Phoenix needs to take the hint. Controlling the middle is not a strength of Rising FC – not yet. Putting Riggi on the left wing and Shaun Wright-Phillips on the right is just creative enough to work.
The match kicks off at 7:30pm PDT Saturday. It will be broadcast in the Phoenix area by YurView Arizona, and streamed for free at the Match Center on USLSoccer.com.
Phoenix Rising FC (0-0-2) vs Los Angeles Galaxy II (1-0-1)
April 8, 2017
Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex