Las Vegas Lights vs Phoenix Rising: 2020 USL Group B Match Preview
Phoenix Rising FC travel to Cashman Field in Las Vegas, NV to play Las Vegas Lights on Saturday, August 22, 2020. It is the first of, what will be three matches between these clubs over a 21 days stretch in USL Championship Group B. Phoenix and Las Vegas come into the match at opposite ends of the Group B table, with Phoenix currently in 1st place, with 19 points, and a 6-1-1 record through 8 matches. Las Vegas sits last in the group with just 4 points, and a 1-1-3 record through 5 matches played. PRFC is on a 4 game winning run, having last beaten LA Galaxy II by a score of 4-1 on Wednesday, August 19th. Las Vegas comes in off of their 1st victory of the season, having beaten Tacoma Defiance 3-1, also on Wednesday. Although it is still somewhat early in this shortened season, currently sitting 15 points behind Phoenix (albeit with 3 games in hand) and 7 points behind currently 2nd place Orange County SC, Las Vegas is reaching the point where they will almost need to run the table to have any shot at making the playoffs.
The biggest note of interest relating to Las Vegas might be that fact that they are now managed by Frank Yallop, after the departure of Eric Wynalda this past offseason. Yallop is a name that will be familiar to long-time Phoenix supporters, as he managed 36 games for the club between 2015 and 2017, posting a (12-17-7) record as manager of Phoenix. He will also be familiar to MLS fans, having spent time with San Jose Earthquakes, Los Angeles Galaxy, and Chicago Fire. Another interesting note on Yallop's CV is that he was also the head coach of the Canadian Mens National Team from 2004-2006. He earned high praise from Phoenix manager Rick Schantz on Tuesday's media call, as Schantz credited Yallop as being a guy he learned a lot from working with early on in his career. Schantz was especially complimentary of the way that Yallop handles players on a personal level. It is also worth noting that because of the time they spent working together that Yallop will likely have a bit more of an insider's knowledge of the PRFC playbook than the average manager would.
PRFC Manager Rick Schantz On Frank Yallop
Las Vegas Lights 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 7:00 PM Arizona time on Saturday, August 22, 2020.
Referee assignments have Malik Badawi as the referee, the assistants are Salma Perez and Matthew Schwartz, with Alejandro Aguilera Jr. as the 4th official. Neither team has any players on the league discipline report.
This will be the 6th meeting all time between Phoenix Rising and Las Vegas. In the previous 5 meetings, Phoenix has won 4 times, Las Vegas has won 1 time, and there has been 0 draws. It was Phoenix winning the last meeting back on September 11, 2019 by a score of 0-1 at Las Vegas. Interestingly enough, in 4 of the previous 5 meetings between these clubs, Phoenix has come away with a clean sheet. In the other match, Las Vegas scored 5 times, in beating Phoenix 5-2 at Las Vegas on October, 10, 2018, the only victory they have in this series.
PRFC Preview Podcast With Jake Anderson, AZ Sports 98.7
Five Points That Shouldn’t be Overlooked
For the past three articles, I have lead off this section by talking about the amazing recent form of Junior Flemmings, who is now being referred to as #FlemMVP. He continued his hot streak against Los Dos when he opened up scoring with a 23rd minute goal, assisted by Kevon Lambert. It was the 4th match in-a-row that he has scored in, his 9th goal in 8 matches, and he has scored in 7 out of 8 matches this season. However, while Flemmings continued his ridiculous run of scoring, it was last year's MVP, Solomon Asante stepping to center stage, and earning Man of the Match honors. Asante assisted on Santi Moar's goal in the 36th minute, and Jordan Schweitzer's goal in the 63rd minute (each player's 1st goal with Phoenix). Late in stoppage time (90 +6), Asante capped off the scoring for the day with a goal of his own, assisted by loanee Lagos Kunga. The goal involvement of 3 on the day brought Asante's total with the team to an astounding 72, in 72 games. He now has 5 goals and 7 assists on the season through 8 matches, which is an incredible goal involvement average of 1.50 per game this season. At this point, it seems like there is a good chance that the MVP trophy stays in the Sonoran Desert this season, the question seems to be whether it will be Flemmings's or Asante's name being engraved on it.
Come on @USLChampionship. Use that #FlemmVP hashtag. https://t.co/35Da5J75Ta— Phoenix Rising FC | Rising Together But Separate (@PHXRisingFC) August 20, 2020
It looks like a three horse MVP race between the two Phoenix wingers, and Tyler Pasher of Indy Eleven, who has 8 goals and 1 assist through 9 matches.
Rick Schantz On Solomon Asante
As well as everyone else is doing, we can never ever overlook the impact that Solo has on this team, he's clearly the most important guy.
The biggest story for both teams is the amount of games they are playing in over a short period of time, both against each other, and in general. For Phoenix, it will be their 3rd match in 8 days, and they are on just 2 days rest after playing at Orange County on Wednesday. Generally speaking, you would think that the road team would be the one at a disadvantage, especially when that team is playing 2 consecutive games on the road. That might not be the case in this situation however, because as was pointed out by Jake Anderson on our podcast episode this week, Las Vegas's schedule is actually much worse. This is because LVL were one of the teams that had matches postponed due to COVID-19, and accounts for the 3 fewer games that they have played than Phoenix thus far. However, after not playing at all between August 1st and August 15th, this is also their 3rd game in 8 days, and they have another match on Tuesday against Orange County In other words, Vegas may need to worry about resting guys against Phoenix, so that they will be available on Tuesday, while Phoenix will have a full week off after the match. It is also worth noting that Phoenix's game on Wednesday was a 2 PM starts, and ended early enough for them to fly home, and already be back in Phoenix by the time Vegas's match against Tacoma kicked-off at 7:30 PM. Phoenix is also flying into Vegas today, the first time the club has ever travelled on a match day, thus limiting their time spent away from Phoenix. LVL and PRFC will match up 2 more times in the near future, again at Las Vegas on September 5th, and at Casino Arizona Field in Arizona on September 11th. By this 3rd meeting, Las Vegas will have played 8 matches in a 27 day stretch, which works out to one game every 3.375 days.
Up until Wednesday's match, Las Vegas was a team that had struggled mightily to find the back of the net, and had managed just 2 goals in their first 4 matches, before lighting the lamp 3 times against Tacoma. Junior Bugos and Rashawn Dally each scored against Tacoma, and are team co-leaders with 2 goals apiece. It was Junior Sandoval netting the other Lights goal on Wednesday, and he is the only other Las Vegas player with a goal involvement of more than 1 on the season, with 1 assist to go with his goal. Last season Irvin Parra (15 goals) and Preston Tabortetaka (8 goals) account for exactly 50% of the 46 goals that Las Vegas scored. With Parra moved on to the San Diego Loyal and Tabortetaka to San Antonio FC, it remains to be seen where the scoring punch will come from this season. Their leading returning scorer is Javan Torre, who was 3rd on the club with 4 goals last season. However, Torre has not scored or assisted thus far in 2020, has only started 2 matches, and was absent from the lineup card completely against Tacoma. Dally is the man starting in the number 9 slot for them, but he is an unproven asset, having started 8 games in the MLS for FC Cincinnati last season and scoring just 1 goal, and having scored 1 goal in 8 starts for Memphis in the USL the prior season. It's a small sample size, but not a particularly encouraging one. That being said, the 23-year-old Jamaican has already doubled his career professional goal total this year, so if Vegas gets on the board tonight, I would say he is the most likely suspect to be on the score sheet.
Ramon Martin Del Campo & Frank Yallop have a message for our #LightsFam after enjoying their first victory as members of Lights FC! 🎉🎉🎉— Las Vegas Lights FC (@lvlightsfc) August 20, 2020
Last night was also Ramon's first game as the captain of our squad! Congrats Monchys! #VivaLights pic.twitter.com/1CIT5gp3JL
@juniorburgos10 abrió el marcador esta noche en la victoria @lvlightsfc 3-1 Tacoma. Suma dos golazos con #LasVegas agregándose a los jugadores con más minutos en cancha para @LaSelecta_SLV— Meme Rivera (@ElMemeRivera) August 20, 2020
Y recargado de gol al igual que @jwalkin11
2 razones suficientes para el 11 titular 🇸🇻 pic.twitter.com/L7N4BcQOXy
Lights fam! Here are the highlights from tonight's BIG win. We'll see you all again this Saturday! #VivaLights pic.twitter.com/BK8asot72A— Las Vegas Lights FC (@lvlightsfc) August 20, 2020
Tonight's "First Minute Confetti" is brought to you by @AFCU!! #VivaLights pic.twitter.com/0aRIAvlglf— Las Vegas Lights FC (@lvlightsfc) August 20, 2020
In addition to "First Minute Confetti", don't forget to be on the lookout for "Inflatable Wacky Flailing Arm Guy" and "BOJO" the Hype Man on the pitch tonight. Luckily, we won't be dealing with kiddie pools on the touch line this time around, as was the case last season. I'm all about creative and unusual promotions, but even Humpy Wheeler thinks that some of these promotions are a bit over the top. It has also been rumored that in addition to a dispute over salary, the "circus atmosphere" was part of the reason the Wynalda departed this offseason.
As bad as Las Vegas has been on offense, they have been pretty solid defensively, allowing just 6 goals through their 5 matches. The have allowed more than 1 goal just once all season, when they allowed 2 against San Diego on July 25th. The only thing they haven't been able to do yes is keep a clean sheet for a full 90 minutes, allowing 1 goal in each of their other 5 matches. Looking at their results, I am most impressed by the fact that they allowed just 1 goal apiece to Orange County and Reno 1868 FC. Although they lost both of those games by a 1 to nil margin, it served as proof that they can play good enough defense to stay competitive in matches with the top teams in the conference. Goalkeeper Edward Delgado has been extremely solid, saving 9 out of 13 shots he has faced, which is just a tick above 69%. However, he came out of last week's match at halftime and was replaced by Thomas Olsen, Delgado had not allowed any goals in the match to that point, so I have to assume it was due to some sort of injury. I have however not been able to find any information on his injury, or availability against Phoenix. The fact that Las Vegas has allowed just 16 shots on target through 5 matches speaks to just how good their defense has been. Centerback Ramon del Campos, who came over from now defunct Fresno has been an anchor on the back line for them thus far, starting all 5 matches, leading them in minutes played, and being named as captain for their last match.
This weeks odds come from draftkings.com, and this falls under the category of not much to see here. There is nothing wildly telling about this line, except that everything looks right about where you would expect it to be. The biggest thing of note is that a Las Vegas win payout of $47 on a $10 bet is $12 less than the $59 payout on a $10 bet for Los Dos to win on Wednesday. However, this line still very much says Phoenix win, with the only exception being that the oddsmaker's aren't BEGGING you to bet on Vegas the same way they were begging people to bet on Los Dos, so maybe I would hold off on making my million dollar bet this week. With the draw line still sitting at a number that is above 3 to 1 it tells me that they aren't too worried about this one ending in a tie either. Las Vegas is a team that seems to play a defensive oriented brand of football, and these are the types of teams that seem to give Phoenix trouble, which in my opinion is the reason that Las Vegas is getting more respect than Los Dos from the oddsmakers. I also feel like the line on Wednesday was skewed by the fact that Galaxy II were coming off of such a long layoff that they were going to be too rusty to compete with Phoenix. To sum it up, you are safe in putting your money on Phoenix and earning another low risk, low reward payout.
Las Vegas Lights vs Phoenix Rising Prediction
Ultimately, I feel like there are a lot of parallels between Las Vegas and San Diego in terms of the make-up of their squads, and style of play. These are the kinds of games that can give a team like Phoenix that always wants to be on the attack a hard time if they get frustrated early on. Recently, Phoenix has shown the ability to have enough patience not to press forward to the point that they are making mistakes, and waiting for the scoring opportunities to come to them. As I have mentioned many times in the past, shooting percentage is a key stat for Phoenix, and if they end up getting into a game where they have a stat line like 20 shots attempted and only 3 on target, then that is the only way I can see them getting into trouble tonight, because that will have meant that they played impatiently. Ultimately, I think we will see their patience prevail in a very similar looking game to last Saturday, that will also have a very similar score line.
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