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Phoenix Rising vs Real Monarchs: USL Championship Playoffs Preview

Phoenix Rising vs Real Monarchs playoffs preview

Real Monarchs travel to Casino Arizona Field in Tempe, Arizona to play Phoenix Rising FC on Friday, November 1, 2019. It is a Western Conference semi-final match in the USL Championship playoffs. It will be the 3rd meeting of the season between these two clubs, with each having as the road team during the regular season. In fact, it was just 3 weeks ago on October 12, 2019 that Monarchs SLC became the only team to defeat Phoenix at Casino Arizona Field this season. Phoenix come into the match off of a more difficult that expected first round win over Austin Bold FC. That match went the entire distance, and stood at 0-0 after 120 minutes. It took 9 penalty shooters for each side before Phoenix finally prevailed by an 8-7 score in the shootout. It is worth noting that it was the first penalty shootout win in franchise history for Phoenix, and gets a bit of a monkey off their backs going forward. Things were much easier for Real Monarchs in the first round, as they easily dispatched of a difficult Orange County SC by a score of 6-2. That match that was essentially over by the 77th minute, when Real took a 4-1 advantage.

In the match against Orange County, the 6 goals by Real Monarchs were scored by 5 different players, further proving their scoring depth. Jack Blake, was the Monarchs player who recorded 2 goals against OC. The brace raised his total to 10 goals on the season, but he had been on a 9 game scoring drought before that. This makes the Monarchs even more dangerous if he has suddenly found his form. Phoenix didn't score any goals in regulation in the opening round, but it is worth noting that the winning penalty was scored by defender A.J. Cochran. You may remember is was Cochran's final shot that was saved by Cody Mizell in Phoenix's last shootout, in the U.S. Open Cup match against New Mexico United. It was a bit of poetic justice for Cochran, who is one of Phoenix's stalwarts on defense to bag the winner this time around. However, even before the shootout, Phoenix's man of the match was goalkeeper Zac Lubin, and it is safe to say that Phoenix would not be playing this week without his heroics.

Phoenix Rising vs Real Monarchs Vital Information

Phoenix Rising logo large

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This, and all USL Championship and USL League One matches can be viewed on ESPN Plus or the ESPN family of networks in the United States. The match is at 10:30 PM EST on Saturday, October 26, 2019.

Referee assignments have the referee as Jon Freemon, with Baboucarr Jallow and Stephen McGonagle as the assistants, and Lukasz Szpala as the 4th official. The discipline sheet is clean as card accumulations are reset for the postseason, and nobody received a direct red card in the first round.

This will be the 15th meeting all-time between the Real Monarchs and Phoenix Rising. In the previous 14 meetings, Phoenix has won 6 times, Real Monarchs have won 7 times, and there has been 1 draw. The most recent of those was a 2-1 Real Monarchs win in Phoenix on October 12, 2019. Phoenix won this season's other match by a scored of 4-2 at Salt Lake City on May 25, 2019.

Five Points That Shouldn’t be Overlooked

Real Monarchs logo

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The dynamic duo in terms of scoring for Real Monarchs is Douglas Martinez and Maikel Chang. Each scored a goal in the opening round, which brought their totals on the year to 17 for Martinez and 14 for Chiang. Another thing of note is that these guys are not only goal scorers, but creators as well, with both having added 6 assists apiece during the regular season. Along with Blake, the top trio has now contributed a total of 41 goals this season. However, as mentioned above, Real Monarchs are one of the few teams in the league that can come close to matching Phoenix in terms of scoring depth. In the last meeting between these clubs, it was Kyle Coffee scoring the deciding goal. Coffee has scored 6 times in the regular season, in just 917 minutes played, making him a dangerous impact player that we are likely to see at some point in the second half.

As mentioned above, Phoenix was held off the scoreboard in the opening round. It was the first time the Phoenix had been held scoreless since April 27, 2019 against Sacramento Republic FC. Phoenix has been the highest scoring team in USL history this season, but recently the club seems to be settling for too many shots from distance. I have mentioned before that in the previous match-up against Real Monarchs that Phoenix put just 6 of 24 shots on target. In the opening round, they took 19 shots, but only 3 of those found their way to the goalkeeper. Phoenix outshot Austin by a 19-18 margin in the match, but Austin got 5 on target. It's really hard to criticize and offensive that set just about every scoring record you can set, but at the same time, this recent pattern of opponents getting a higher percentage of shots on target is troubling. The playoffs are a different ballgame than the regular season, and Austin certainly had some questionable injuries last Saturday to say the least. In spite of all of that, at the end of the day, Lubin had to do more to keep Phoenix in the match, than his Austin counterpart Diego Restrepo. With the quality of finishers that the Real Monarchs have, if that is the case again on Friday, then Phoenix is likely to see their season go the way of LAFC.

Last season, the Phoenix Rising had their now famous Dollar Beer Night promotion for all of their home playoff games. Last week was not a Dollar Beer Night, but it this week they are pulling out the big guns, and it will be Dollar Beer Night on Friday. Phoenix is an undefeated 15-0-0 on these nights, a history that dates back 3 years now. I don't know if there is any scientific evidence that there is a link between cheap beer and winning soccer games, but it certainly livens the atmosphere. This match has been sold out since mid-week, with standing room only tickets being sold, this should be one of the largest and loudest crowds ever at Casino Arizona Field.

Malik Badawi will not be officiating tonight's match!

Taking a look at the betting line, I first want to remind you that you are betting on regular time (90 minutes), meaning that last week's match paid for those who bet the draw. All things considered, I was thinking that we might see a little bit closer odds on this, but it seems as if the oddsmakers do not see a repeat of the result from 3 weeks ago. A bet on Real Monarchs to win in regulation is currently paying out $42.50 on a $10 wager, while a bet on Phoenix will net you just $16 on a $10 wager. The draw is paying $38.50 on a $10 bet as of the writing of this article. Ultimately, this is a pretty straight and away line that says the oddsmakers think the favored team will win this one. If we were looking at a line that was paying closer to even money on a Phoenix win I would have some concern, but this line seems to say Phoenix win.

Phoenix Rising vs Real Monarchs Prediction

If I had to bet money on anything, it would be that this will not be anything like last week's 0-0 game. Real Monarchs are not the type of team to play a waste time rolling around on the ground type of game plan. They are a club that believes they can play Phoenix straight up, and beat them. In my opinion, this match is the real Western Conference Finals, and whoever wins it will end up representing the conference in the Championship Final. As proved a few weeks ago, Real can beat Phoenix, but they kind of need everything to go right for them for it to happen. I don't see that happening this time around, and Dollar Beer Night should be the final tip of the scales in Phoenix's favor. Early in the year, Phoenix won 4-2 in Salt Lake City, sounds like a good way for things to finish tonight.

Prediction: Phoenix Rising - 4       Real Monarchs - 2

About Phil Kennedy

Member of @acrosspitch football/soccer podcast, Accrington Stanley, Phoenix Rising, Arsenal, #OnStanleyOn #UpRising #WeAreTheArsenal @OASSCNA #dontworrybeaccy

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