Las Vegas Lights travel to Casino Arizona Field in Tempe, AZ to play Phoenix Rising FC on Friday, September 11, 2020. It is the third of three matches between these clubs over a 21 days stretch in USL Championship Group B, with the previous two having been played at Las Vegas's Cashman Field. So far, the first match resulted in an improbable draw very late in stoppage time, and last Saturday Phoenix came away with a 2-0 victory. Phoenix currently sits on top of the Group B table with 23 points through 11 matches played, and can move a step closer to securing a playoff spot with a win on Friday. Las Vegas is last place with 9 points through 10 matches played, and will find themselves on the brink of mathematical elimination with another loss. Although it is likely too little too late for Vegas, as mentioned by Phoenix Rising head coach Rick Schantz on Tuesday's media call, Frank Yallop has greatly improved the side since taking the helm as Lights manager. In other words, they are not the same team that went (0-1-3) in their first four matches. They have gone (2-2-2) since, which is impressive considering that 4 of those 6 matches have come against either Phoenix, LA Galaxy II, or Orange County SC (the top three teams in the group respectively). It is also worth noting that neither team has played since last Saturday, so both will be on equal rest.
PRFC Manager Rick Schantz On Frank Yallop
In last week's match Schantz deployed a new back four alignment for the first time this season. Corey Whelan, who had started every game this season at center back, moved over to right back, with Joey Farrell moving into the starting lineup at that position. This was partially due to an injury to fullback Owusu Ansah-Kontoh, who Schantz has confirmed is available for selection this week, but also for tactical purposes. As he explained, Las Vegas is a big team that relies on dumping a lot of high balls into the box, so going with this bigger back line matched them up well against what Las Vegas is best at. He especially noted Farrell's ability in the air. Based on the success from last week, Phoenix's 2nd clean sheet of the season and just 1 shot on target allowed, it wouldn't be surprising to see Schantz take the "if it ain't broke don't fix it approach" and run this back four out again on Friday. There were a total of 5 changes in in Las Vegas's line-up from the first match to the second match. One of those was necessitated by the injury to Ramon Martin del Campo, who Phoenix was happy not to have to see. Las Vegas has also started two different keepers, Edward Delgado and Thomas Olsen. I expect that we may see Delgado back in net on Friday after Olsen stopped just 1 of the 3 shots that he faced in the last match.
PRFC Manager Rick Schantz On Changing His Back 4
Phoenix Rising vs Las Vegas Lights 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 7:30 PM Arizona time on Friday, September 11, 2020.
This will be the 8th meeting all time between Phoenix Rising and Las Vegas. In the previous 7 meetings, Phoenix has won 5 times, Las Vegas has won 1 time, and there has been 1 draw. This will be the third meeting between the two clubs this season, with Phoenix winning the most recent, and a draw in the match prior to that, and as mentioned above both of those matches were played at Cashman Field in Downtown Las Vegas. As mentioned last week, Phoenix Rising will host 1000 fans at Casino Arizona Field this week, which will be the first time that fans have been in attendance since March 7, 2020.
🚨NEW #UpRising Podcast🚨@PHXRisingFC midfielder Jordan Schweitzer joins me to discuss:— Jake Anderson (@jwa1994) September 10, 2020
⚽️Fans at Casino Arizona Field
⚽️His transition to #PRFC
⚽️The team’s playoff mentality
⚽️His & the club’s work with @PhxChildrens #RisingTogether
🎧 on @AZSports👇🏼https://t.co/TJx8VEAG2c
Five Points That Shouldn’t be Overlooked
Usually in this section I talk about which players have been in the best form recently, or which player I consider to the the top story going into that match. This week, without a doubt, the top story isn't a player at all, but in fact is the fans. With just 1000 fans being allowed, or about 15% of stadium capacity, it will not be anywhere near the normal sell-out crowds this team often draws. However, all of those fans will be long time season ticket holders, and I expect them to be well lubricated (since drinks are being served), and able to hit at least 50% of the volume that would usually be provided by the normal crowd of 6-7000. More than any other sport, football is about the fans. As someone who has been lucky enough to attend the last few home matches for media coverage, I will tell you it has been downright depressing to see the empty seats and barren concourse on game nights. While 1000 is only a step in the right direction, it is perhaps the most exciting moment of this season for PRFC supporters so far.
This week, I am going with a defensive oriented article in celebration of last week's clean sheet, although you wouldn't know it by looking at my car. When talking about defense with this club, it starts with the man is plays the "number 8" or deep midfield position. This is the guy who is not only your last line of defense in front of the back four, but he is also the guy who is tasked with getting the ball back forward once possession has been regained. This is a guy who is basically expected to be anywhere that the ball is at when it comes into the mid-field. Of course I am talking about the well-deserved Man of the Match, Kevon Lambert. Often overlooked among his prodigiously scoring teammates, Lambert is one of the engines that drives this train. He has started all 11 games this season, and has played all but 12 minutes so far. He is also the longest tenured member of the team, now in an (unheard of for the USL Championship) fourth year with the club. One of the hardest things for new fans to appreciate is how some players can be great without scoring a lot. If you are one of these people, watch Lambert, and you will soon appreciate just how important guys like this are.
The most interesting side story for Las Vegas will be whether or not del Campo, who has missed the past 3 matches is able to play or not. He is the only player on the squad this year with over 500 minutes played, that also has has a positive plus/minus rating (see las week's article for an explanation of plus/minus.) It has been Javan Torre filling in at center back for del Campo, and he has a team worst -5 rating. In other words, this guy is a real x-factor for them. A player that we haven't talked about is their other regular center back Johnny Fenwick, an English center back who leads the team in minutes played. In spite of being 25-years-old, Fenwick has limited experience, and comes over from San Antonio where he only played in 3 matches. It appears that combination of inexperience and injuries at this key position are at least partially contributing to Las Vegas's sub-par 1.70 goals allowed per game. Their goal keepers haven't been making things any better either, as their combined saved percentage has fallen to a meager 65.9%. Olsen's save percentage has dropped all the way down to 50% (which in soccer goalkeeping terms is about as good as a basketball player that shoots 50% from the free throw line), and Delgado gave up 4 goals on 5 shots his last time out. Perhaps Las Vegas would be better off bringing one of their inflatable flailing arm guys on the trip and putting it in front of the goal instead.
This is the section of the article that is a bit of a wild card every week. I like to try to do something fun, like last week I about the Cashman Field experience, "BOJO" the Hype Man, inflatable flailing arm guys, and confetti. Some week's I find that I have to write about something more serious. Usually something more serious is something along the lines of don't be too hard on the players after a loss. This week, is probably the most serious and difficult thing that I have had to write about in this space because it is something that touches me on a personal level. I had hoped to be able to address this issue with a non-specific statement that was made yesterday via our social media accounts. After being accused of "giving in to cancel culture" on our Facebook page this morning, it became apparent that I needed to address this more specifically. I am not here to name any names because that is beside the point, and if anyone is that interested in that aspect, it is readily available on both the Bandidos or Red Fury Twitter feeds. What I will say is that it is a situation that I am saddened and shocked by, because it is not something I would have ever expected from someone that I had come to know as a friend. This is a guy I have attended not only Phoenix Rising, but also Arizona Coyotes games with, was a founding member of the Official Accrington Stanley Supporters Club of North America, and a one-time contributor to this site as an author. In other words, a guy that I trusted, because the guy that I knew wasn't a hateful guy. He was one of the most generous and caring people that you would ever meet, the kind of guy that would give you the shirt off of his own back. I don't know what happened to that guy, and where all of this hate has come from. We are not, and never will be a politically website, in fact, part of the reason that I wanted to start a website about football to begin with is because I had grown so tired of politics that I wanted to make something that was just about football. With the exception of our friend Adrian Fontez, we do not endorse anything of any political nature, and for the record I do not personally support either major political party or Presidential candidate. That being said, some things transcend politics, and should be unacceptable to everyone regardless of politics. One of those things is hate. The things that I have seen that this individual has posted are not "political opinions", they are expressions of hate, and hate is not something we will ever accept or associate ourselves with. As a staff at Across The Pitch I don't think we have ever unanimously agreed on anything before, that is until we were presented with screen shots of hateful posts that had been made by this individual.
This week at draftkings.com, this, and all USL Championship games appear to be off the board except for Saturday's match between Real Monarchs and New Mexico United. I have checked multiple casinos and all of them currently list only the line for that game, which is bizarre considering there are a total 11 games in the USL on Saturday and 2 games tomorrow. It is not unusual for a casino to temporarily pull a line off the board, especially in a situation where there may be something like uncertainty over if a key player is injured or not. To see all but one game randomly off the board like this at every casino could be a story in itself, although the story is probably something like this is the time of night that the system updates. I will check back in the morning, and update this section with an actual gambling prediction assuming lines become available. The only other thing I can think of is that someone actually took my advice and bet 10 farms on Phoenix, and the bookmakers are still reeling from that loss.
Updated: Now that lines have been published, I will say it is good news for PRFC fans. Last week I had mentioned that the line was skewed so far in favor of Phoenix winning that I wouldn't just bet the farm on Phoenix, I would bet 10 farms. If you did that last week you are now in possession of roughly 13.2 farms. Let that ride on Phoenix this week and find yourself in possession of 17.16 farms next week!
Phoenix Rising vs Las Vegas Lights Prediction
I do not have my trusty betting analysis to help me this week, but not really sure that I need it. Phoenix has been a different team at home than they have on the road this year, and that has mostly been without fans. I can't imagine the players aren't going to get an infusion of energy from the return of the supporters. Vegas is a scrappy club who managed a draw in the first match, and kept things within 1 goal until late last week. However, Phoenix is simply a team with far superior talent, and by the end of last week's match you could start to see that Las Vegas was starting to look a little bit overmatched. Against a team with inexperienced defenders, and trouble at the keeper position, I think it is going to be a long night for whoever that keeper ends up being. Maybe mark this one a notch closer if del Campo ends up playing, but not much. I can't see this one ending in anything less than a convincing Phoenix victory.