Phoenix Rising FC travel to Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California to play LA Galaxy II on Wednesday, August 19, 2020. It is the second of, what will be three matches between these clubs in USL Championship Group B, and is the only one of the three that will be played in California. Phoenix comes into the matches with 3 consecutive wins, after knocking off the expansion San Deigo Loyal by a 2-0 score last Saturday. They are currently 1st place in Group B with a 5-1-1 record and 16 points. Los Dos (LA Galaxy II) are currently 3-0-1, with 9 points, and are 4th place in Group B, but with 3 games in hand on Phoenix. Los Dos's only loss of the season thus far came at Phoenix, by a 4-0 score back on July 11, 2020. Galaxy II won their next 2 matches after that, but now have not played in almost four weeks, after having matches postponed due to COVID-19 concerns. Los Dos last took the pitch on July 25, 2020, at home against Sacramento Republic, a match that they won 1-0.
For any team to have almost a month off in between matches is unheard of, and just adds to the list of unknowns heading into the match. PRFC manager Rick Schantz called Los Dos "very good and young" on his weekly media call. However, as is the case with any MLS reserve side, what players are going to be available is something that is in constant flux. Without them having played any recent matches, it only increases the amount of guesswork when it comes to their lineup. The biggest news for those who have followed Los Dos the past few years is the departure of a Kai Koreniuk, who signed with the MLS LA Galaxy on June 25, 2020.
“Kai is a developing player who we have seen progress with LA Galaxy II since joining our club. We are confident Kai can continue to grow as a member of our first team and will provide valuable depth to our squad. We are pleased to add him to our roster.”
LA Galaxy General Manager Dennis te Kloese
The Dutch midfielder had 9 goals and 4 assists for Galaxy II last season, and a brace on opening night, back in March. Although he has not made an appearance in the MLS yet, he has also not appeared for Galaxy II since the opener, so it is very unlikely that we will see him play against Phoenix. Even with the loss of Koreniuk, Los Dos are a club that still packs plenty of scoring punch according to Schantz. On the coaches call, he said that he expected the lineup to be very similar to what they saw then the clubs met in July, mentioning that Augustine Williams who has 2 goals and 1 assist this year, is "explosive", and Adam (Esparza)-Saldana as "fantastic in midfield". He also added that they are a well coached team, complimenting manager Junior Gonzalez.
PRFC Manager Rick Schantz On Preparing For Los Dos
LA Galaxy II vs Phoenix Rising Vital Information
This is a televised match, and and can be viewed on ESPN Plus in the United States and locally in Arizona on CW61. The match is at 2:00 PM Arizona time on Tuesday, August 19, 2020.
This will be the 15th meeting all time between the LA Galaxy II and Phoenix Rising. In the previous 14 meetings, Phoenix has won 11 times, Galaxy 2 have won 3, and there has been 0 draws. Phoenix Rising have won the last 8 matches of in the series, and have not lost to Galaxy 2 since August 31, 2016. All 3 of L.A.'s wins in the series came in 2016, when they swept 3 matches against Phoenix. Phoenix has swept the season series with L.A. in 2015, 2017, 2018, and 2019.
Five Points That Shouldn’t be Overlooked
Two weeks ago against New Mexico United, Junior Flemmings registered a hat trick. This week, he registers a hat trick of consecutive appearances at the top of this section, but there is still plenty left to say about the man who is now being referred to as #FlemMVP. The fact that the man has 8 goals in 7 matches is just the tip of the iceberg. He hasn't just been explosive, he has been consistent too, scoring in 6 out of 7 matches this year. He is also a guy that is opening up opportunities for his teammates and frustrating opponents. This was on display front and center last week when first Collin Martin, and then Emrah Klimenta of San Diego both went into the book for taking a hard foul out of frustration after being beaten by Flemmings. However, while some players get knocked off their game by that type of physical play, according to Schantz, Flemmings is the kind of guy that excels in those circumstances. In other words, a prime example of that "pick-up truck mentality" that I mentioned in my El Paso Locomotive preview a few weeks back. When asked about Flemmings on the media call, and what his future might hold, Schantz did not hold back when describing what a special talent he is, saying that Flemmings is a calibur of player who could play at the EFL Championship level now, and is potentially a Premier League talent if he hones his left foot.
PRFC Manager Rick Schantz On Junior Flemmings
Man of the Match, Move of the Match, what can you say, the man had a night for himself. And he steps it up another notch each week!
Last week I spoke about how Jon Bakero was forming a formidable connection with Flemmings, and when Flemmo tallied in the 26th minute against San Diego, it was none other than Bakero providing service. The assist was 1 of 5 chances created by Bakero on the night, and 1 of 64 passes he completed! The good folks at USL Tactics Review made an incredible chart outlining all of Bakero's passes throughout the San Diego game, and an excellent illustration of just how precisely he operates. The other big news in Phoenix's midfield is the emergence of Sam Stanton. It was a given coming into the season that Bakero and Kevon Lambert would be regular starters, with only the 3rd midfield role not set in stone. Stanton is a 26-year-old Scotsman, playing in the U.S. for the first time, after spending the last 9 seasons playing in Scotland. With over 100 starts in the Scottish Championship (2nd Tier) and over 30 appearances in the Scottish Premiership (1st Tier), he is a player who brings a tremendous amount of experience to the table. With Phoenix, he has made 5 starts this year, including each of the past 3 matches, and has seemed to grow more comfortable in his role each week. Against San Diego, was by far his signature game this season, often serving as the starting point for the attack at the midfield level, Stanton was particularly effective late in the first half. The performance was enough to earn him and 8 out or 10 rating for the match, his highest mark of the season.
Just to wrap up the discussion of the midfield, I want to highlight @jonbakero7. He created five chances against the Loyal (his pass map shows his cleanliness on the ball), and he’s absolutely elite amongst USL midfielders when it comes to attacking contributions. pic.twitter.com/nrfBWUhiuc— USL Tactics (@USLTactics) August 17, 2020
One of those soccer terms you hear a lot, but usually without a lot of explanation of what it actually means, is "bossing the midfield". Next time someone asks you about bossing the midfield, simply refer them to these charts of Lambert and Bakero who put on an absolute clinic on bossing the midfield against San Diego.
Last but certainly not least, we must talk about the man who got us all free car washes this week, just in time for two massive dust storms to hit town, Zac Lubin. It was the 2nd clean sheet of the year for Lubin, and was a performance that was much more impressive than the 5 saves on the stat sheet would reflect. For the last 30 minutes of the match against San Diego, Lubin was under heavy duress, and he excelled in not only stopping the attempts that came his way, but also in organizing the defense in front of him. It should not go without mentioning that the back line included Joey Calistri, a converted forward, starting his first match at right back. In addition to goalkeeping, the play of left back Darnell King must be noted. King notched his first goal of the season on the offensive end, and combined with his strong defense (including 2 interceptions and 2 recoveries), he was named to the USL Championship Team of the Week.
Did you get a free VIP wash from @RaceWayCarWash yesterday? You have @ZLubin28 and this save to thank!— Phoenix Rising FC | Rising Together But Separate (@PHXRisingFC) August 17, 2020
Good news: you can still get a free basic wash using the code 0815 this week!#RisingTogetherButSeparate | #OwnThe* pic.twitter.com/LWCwNGGlSU
Los Dos are a team that was beaten soundly by Phoenix the last time they played, but has won all of their other games so far. The truth of how good they actually are probably lies somewhere in the middle, in that they probably aren't as bad as they looked losing 4-0 at Phoenix, but probably not quite as good as they have looked going undefeated in their other matches. With 7 goals scored and 5 goals against it appears that they are a team that is going to score a decent amount of goals, but ship a fair amount as well. As an MLS reserve side, they are a team that plays a technically sound brand of football, and isn't going to resort to tactics like long balls and parking the bus. All of these things tend to play right into Phoenix's hands, and is evidenced by the fact that Phoenix has beaten them 8 times in-a-row. As Evans mentioned on our recent Episode 158, you are never going to beat Phoenix by trying to outscore them, because that is how they are trying to beat you, and other teams in the USL just don't have enough attacking talent to compete. Further complicating things for Los Dos is the fact that after a 4 week layoff there is inevitably going to be some rust. On the other hand Phoenix comes in as well conditioned as any team in the league, due to the weather that they train in. According to Schantz there is even some science on Phoenix's side. This has to do with the fact that Phoenix players will have more oxygen in their blood with the expected game time temperature of around 90 degrees Fahrenheit, being roughly 20 degrees cooler than the climate they have been training in.
This weeks odds come from FanDuel.com, and if you are a Phoenix Rising fan than let's just say you are going to be happy with who the casino thinks is going to win. Keeping in mind that Casino Arizona Field in Tempe, Arizona is an absolute fortress, and that PRFC is almost unbeatable there, the odds are usually quite a bit more in their favor at home, than on the road. Going back to last week, I had said that even though they were playing at home, odds were so far skewed toward Phoenix winning that you would be crazy to bet on anything other than a Phoenix win. This week, they are on the road, and guess what, the odds are skewed even more toward a Phoenix win. Last week a bet of $10 on San Diego to win was paying $56. This week a bet on Los Dos to win is paying $59. Essentially, it's seems that the oddsmakers just think that there is absolutely no way that a team that has been off for a month has any chance of beating a Phoenix team that is hitting top form, and firing on all cylinders. They are absolutely begging you to bet on anything but Phoenix to win.
LA Galaxy II vs Phoenix Rising Loyal Prediction
Los Dos are a young and talented team that has shown an ability to win games this year, and any time you play on the road, it's going to be tougher than playing at home. Otherwise, I really see absolutely no reason to think that this game will end with anything other than a Phoenix Rising victory. As mentioned above, and proven by recent matches, Galaxy II are a team that just doesn't match up well with Phoenix. They are a team that is built on winning games by scoring goals, and they just don't have the horses to win a shoot-out with Phoenix. Furthermore, having so much time off since their last match, I just find it impossible that they are going to be in sync tactically enough to compete with a well oiled machine like PRFC. Under regular circumstances, I would say this might be a tough match that Phoenix eeks out by a 2-3 score like they did when they travelled to Carson last season. This time around however, you have a team that is already much more talented, playing in the best form they have had all season. On the other side of the ball, you have a young group of guys who haven't played a lot together as a unit to begin with, and haven't played a competitive match in over 25 days. Judging by what the oddsmakers are predicting, this one is not only going to be a Phoenix win, it's not going to be close. Last week, if you followed my advice and bet 1 million dollars to win 392 thousand dollars, then let is ride and bet your $1,392,000 to win another easy $535,000.