San Diego Loyal SC travels to Casino Arizona Field in Tempe, Arizona to play Phoenix Rising FC on Saturday, August 15, 2020. It will be the Southern California based expansion team's first ever visit to Arizona, and looks to be a key early match in USL Championship Group B. Phoenix is currently 1st place in Group B with a 4-1-1 record and 13 points. San Diego is currently 3-2-2, and in 2nd place with 11 points. This of course means that San Diego could move into 1st with 3 points tonight, or Phoenix can put some distance between themselves and 2nd place. After a strong start that saw them leading the Group early on, San Diego has stumbled a bit, winning just 1 of their past 4 matches, including an 0-2 loss to Orange County at home on Wednesday. Phoenix has turned things on a bit of late, winning their last 2 matches, and soundly defeating rivals New Mexico United 5-2 at home last Saturday, and thumping El Paso Locomotive 3-1 the previous week.
The big story whenever San Diego rolls into town, at least in this first season, is that their manager is a man who's name is almost synonymous with U.S. Soccer, the legendary Landon Donovan. For those of you who are not familiar with his career, well let's just say he is one of the only U.S. born footballers that everyone in England has heard of. While Phoenix is a veteran team that shouldn't be bothered by such things, just having a guy of his stature on the sidelines is probably enough to rattle the cage of some of the league's younger players. It also brings instant credibility to the expansion franchise, and it's clear early on that he is implementing a disciplined approach tactically, and it has paid off thus far. PRFC manager Rick Schantz said that San Diego may the best defensive team they have faced so far on his weekly Tuesday media call. He also said that he expected them to take a similar approach to what Orange County used against Phoenix, and of course OCSC accounts to the 1-1 portion of Phoenix's 4-1-1 record. Furthermore, it is always a bit of an added challenge when facing a team that you have never played before because you don't have any film to study on what they are going to try to do against you.
Phoenix Rising vs San Diego Loyal 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 Saturday, August 15, 2020.
Referee assignments have referee Isaiah Vlad at center pitch, with Noah Kenyawani and Jordan Vlad as the assistants, and Alan Rios will be the 4th official. (It is worth nothing that is Kenyawani's 3rd consecutive match serving as assistants in Phoenix. Neither team has any players on the league discipline report.
This is the 1st all-time match-up between these two clubs.
Five Points That Shouldn’t be Overlooked
For the second week in-a-row I start off this section with Junior Flemmings, and how could I not? This man has literally taken his game to another level, and shown an ability to produce goals when moved into the number 9 position! Flemmo had already cashed in, in the 17th minute against New Mexico from his regular wing position. However, when striker Rufat Dadashov subbed off in the 69th minute for Santi Moar, it was Flemmings moving up to center forward to replace Dadashov, with Moar taking Flemmings's spot on the wing. It took just 4 minutes for Jon Bakero to find Flemmo for his 2nd assist of the night, and when Moar connected with him in the 86th minute, Flemmings completed the hat trick. Those goals run his total to a ridiculous 7 goals in 6 games, and had us joking this week if he could possibly hit 20 in a 16 game season. Talk about #ownthe*.
Speaking of Bakero, this is a man that I genuinely feel bad that I haven't written enough about. In our interview with Accrington Stanley defender Mark Hughes we joked around that he was the Ringo of Accrington because he was that guy who is just so technically perfect, and never makes a mistake to the point the you sometimes forget that he is there. Well if Solomon Asante is Paul (the face of the franchise loved by all), Flemmings is John (the aficionados choice), and Kevon Lambert is George (talented enough to play up front but at his best in the background), then Bakero is certainly that cog in the machine that is so well oiled that it never even squeaks. The 24-year-old Spaniard appears to be a guy who is really coming into form as well, with 3 assists in his past 2 matches. He plays a true midfield role for Phoenix Rising, and had 3 goals and 5 assists last season, which is especially impressive considering that most of Phoenix's scoring comes from the 3 up front in Phoenix's 4-3-3. We often talk about Phoenix's Liverpool inspired system, and in that sense Bakero would be Jordan Henderson, that guy that you just don't really know how good he is until he misses a couple matches with a knick.
Point 3: PRFC Are Nothing But Class On And Off The Pitch
I counted 14 passes and 9 different PRFC players that touched the ball leading up the Dadashov finish in this video that I was lucky enough to capture last Saturday. When you see goals like this, you know a team is playing with confidence.
Not only further proof the PRFC is a class organization that cares about and takes care of its fans, but duly note to never "have a busy week and not put in for that contest".
I can guarantee that no other club is like @PHXRisingFC! The fact @jonbakero7 @DaBrickWall00 @HJBosch21 and Jordan Schweitzer all came over to my place to hand deliver this sign kit shows why I consider the club my second family! Love you guys so much! #RisingTogether #OwnThe* pic.twitter.com/eHtoVfhMCQ— Andrew Southwick (@RedBeardedRed) August 15, 2020
I personally received a surprise phone call from Darnell King, not asking to come on the show (although we would love to have him on). Just calling to thank me for being a fan. WOW!
Speaking of class, there is one man who is in a class of his own when it comes to reporting on PRFC, and we were lucky enough to have him on our show this week. If you haven't yet, don't miss our discussion with Owain Evans.
To me, the definition of "a collective", would be a team that is greater than the sum of its parts. Anytime I see a club that has 6 goals for and 6 goals against, and a record as good as San Diego's (3-2-2), then that fits the bill of a collective to me. Also impressive is their 2-0-0 away record, something I am sure coach Schantz has made the players well aware of all week. The only player on San Diego with more than one goal is Francis Atuahene (a Ghanaian forward who our friend Abdulai Suburu has written about on our partner site GhanaFootballNews.com) with 2 goals. Atuahene had 1 goal and 1 assists in just 448 minutes with Austin Bold last season, who are another defensive oriented club. Atuahene seems to have ended up on two different expansion clubs that well, play a bit of that "Mourhino Ball" the past 2 years. It does look like he is going to be getting more playing time with San Diego than he did with Austin, but it should be noted that he has played in all 7 matches, but started just twice. Former Phoenix Rising striker Ben Spencer has 3 starts and 4 appearances for San Diego this year, but has yet to score. He was a guy that scored some big goals, and did most of his damage when coming on as a substitute for Phoenix last year, so it will be interesting to see if, and how he is used tonight.
For some reason each week I have to find the odds on a different website because the same one never seems to be there twice, so..... this week's odds come from sportnation.bet. Keeping in mind that last week against New Mexico, a $10 bet on Phoenix would have paid $21, a $10 bet on NM to win paid $24, and a draw paid $32 dollars, it is fairly obvious that the oddsmakers don't take San Diego as a real threat against Phoenix. And it makes sense, San Diego has scored 6 goals in 7 matches, Phoenix scored 5 goals last week. Although the payout is meager, this would be the time for the risk adverse with money to throw around to bet big on Phoenix. I am talking this is the kind of bet for the guy who bet $1 million on Amanda Nunez to win her last UFC Fight to win $400,000 to make kind of bet. I wouldn't recommend chasing the big payouts here tonight, the numbers are what they are for a reason. In fact, this is one of the largest draw payouts I have seen in a very long time (anytime a draw brings more than a 3 to 1 return it is far enough off the average line to tell you that the casino isn't guarding against having to pay out on it), so that tells me that the casino is just BEGGING you to BET ON ANYTHING BUT PHOENIX TO WIN! Remember, to beat the house, you have to be the house.
PRFC vs SDLSC Betting Payouts
My photography game is still a work in progress, but here are a couple shots of the guys I got during warm-ups last week. I have taken many more photos these past two weeks, a number that are better than this, or actual game action. I haven't gotten to properly go through them yet, but wanted to let you know a some point in the near future I will be posting a collection of photos I have taken at the matches.
Phoenix Rising vs San Diego Loyal Prediction
Normally I say that my prediction in the section are 2 different things, but this week they are going to align pretty closely. As brought up by Matt Robards on this week's show, the team's San Diego have beaten (Tacoma Defiance, Real Monarchs, Las Vegas Lights) are all struggling. The 0-2 loss at home to Orange County on Wednesday was telling in that this is a club that is going to not only struggle to score goals against better teams, but also struggle to prevent better teams from scoring. It remains to be seen which club has the better defense between Phoenix and Orange County, but it goes without saying the Phoenix has more firepower on the attacking end. In games like this Phoenix tends to play such a fast pace that at some point they let one in, but that one rarely ends up mattering. Realistically the 4 goals scored could be conservative, but I will keep it there because I trust that Donovan will have his guys playing for a full 90 minutes, and this won't be a team that completely loses its confidence if it gets down 2 or more goals to PRFC, like we saw happen a few times last season.