It’s a short turnaround for Phoenix Rising FC, who are coming off a draining 2-1 victory at LA Galaxy II last Saturday to face NASL’s San Francisco Deltas in the third round of the US Open Cup this Wednesday. This is the first-ever meeting between Rising FC and the Deltas.
Phoenix is playing in the third round for the third time in their short history. As Arizona United SC they defeated OKC Energy FC in 2014 before being eliminated by the LA Galaxy in the fourth round. In 2016 they fell 3-0 to Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC.
The Deltas are an expansion club in the NASL this year, and are making their first appearance in the tournament’s third round. Formed in early 2016, the club is the project of Bay Area entrepreneur Brian Andrés Helmick, and faces daily the fascinating struggles of playing pro soccer in one of the world’s most expensive real estate markets. This means that the team plays its home matches at historic Kezar Stadium, technically a public facility. Venue availability impacted the Deltas’ ability to host this third-round match-up with Phoenix.
The club’s unique geography in the NASL – it’s the only team west of the Rocky Mountains – and its ownership group’s impressive roster of tech investors make the club an interesting follow in American soccer, but the team’s performance on the pitch is just as difficult to predict as a parking space in San Francisco.
The Deltas have a record of 3-2-4 in the current NASL season. They have scored seven goals and given up seven. They have scored five of their seven goals in two games against North Carolina FC, and been shut out five times. The results are mercurial, to say the least.
The expansion club boasts several known USL producers, like former Orlando and Louisville defender Bryan Burke, and former Red Bulls II loanee, Canadian international Karl Ouimette. Others in the squad have experience in Major League Soccer, as well as top flights in Europe and elsewhere. They are coached by former Ottawa Fury and Swope Park Rangers boss Marc Dos Santos. Their Director of Soccer is former MLS veteran and Open Cup champion Todd Dunivant. This is not a rag-tag bunch.
Rising FC will want to keep an eye on Pablo Dyego, who has scored only once in NASL play this season, but has launched an incredible 26 shots, good for second in the league. Leading scorer Tommy Heinemann was the hero in the Deltas’ second-round game at Burlingame Dragons, putting away the match-winner with his first touch of the night. San Francisco rested several other starters in that match, and predicting their midweek lineup in a crucial cup-tie with Phoenix will not be easy.
On the other side of the ball, Rising FC are still adjusting to life without Alessandro Riggi and Luke Rooney, and on Saturday trotted out a new spin on their most effective formation of the young season, showcasing new signing Eric Avila in the process. Avila scored a goal and drew a penalty in the win over LA. Notably absent from the starting XI in LA was Omar Bravo who, after seven starts at forward, has yet to log a goal, and is not among the top five Firebirds in shots. Bravo could see action as a substitute on Wednesday.
The match will be streamed by Phoenix Rising FC on Wednesday, May 31 at 7:30pm PDT. The winner will advance to the US Open Cup’s fourth round, and face the San Jose Earthquakes of Major League Soccer at Avaya Stadium on Wednesday, June 14.