Phoenix Rising FC travel to Greater Nevada Field in Reno, NV to play Reno 1868 on Saturday, August 29, 2020. It will be their only match-up of the USL Championship regular season, and pits the current leaders of Group A against the current leaders of Group B. Phoenix comes in with 20 points and a (6-2-1) record after a draw against Las Vegas Lights last Saturday, in what was one of the most shocking endings to a football match you will ever see. I will get a bit into that match later in this article, although much less than the 6000 words I threatened in the immediate aftermath of that match. Reno comes in with 18 points, and a (6-0-2) record, after winning their last 2 matches, including a 3-1 win over San Diego Loyal last Saturday. They are currently tied with Sacramento Republic at 18 points in Group A, however they hold the tiebreaker on goal difference (+10 to +5), and also have a game in hand over Sacramento.
Reno may be one of the only teams Phoenix will face this year that has a chance of competing with them from a scoring standpoint. With 28 goals, PRFC has by far the most goals of any team in the conference, however, with 18 goals, Reno is tied for 3rd in scoring with Austin Bold, and although San Antonio FC has scored 2 more goals (20) than Reno, they have also played 2 more matches. The usual suspect for Reno is Corey Hertzog, who is a veteran player in the USL, with a long history of double digit scoring seasons, including a career high 18 last season. Thus far Hertzog is tied for the club lead with 3 goals, and also has 1 assist. Their new threat this year is Haitian Christian Francois, who came over from Ottawa Fury (where he 8 goals last year), and already has 3 goal and 4 assists through Reno's first 8 matches. In their last match, Hertzog and and Francois were joined up front by Foster Langsdorf, getting his second start of the season, and scoring. It was Langsdorf's second consecutive game scoring, and also put him up to 3 on the season. Langsdorf is a proven scorer at this level, having scored 21 goals over the past 2 seasons, while with Portland Timbers 2, In my opinion, these 3 players give Reno a legitimate three headed scoring attack up front, which is a rarity at this tier.
Reno 1868 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 29, 2020.
Referee assignments have Elijio Arreguin as the referee, the assistants are Stephen McGonagle and Conrado Garcia, with Hannah Geitner as the 4th official. Neither team has any players on the league discipline report.
This will be the 7th meeting all time between Phoenix Rising and Reno. In the previous 6 meetings, Phoenix has won 3 times, Reno has won 1 times, and there has been 2 draws. Phoenix Rising were the victors in both matches last season, winning 3-0 at Reno on June 18, 2019, and a 4-2 PRFC victory at Casino Arizona Field on August 16, 2019.
PRFC Manager Rick Schantz On Las Vegas Officials
Five Points That Shouldn’t be Overlooked
With these being "Match Preview" articles, I generally try to focus on the upcoming match, with only a reflection to the past match as an indicator of current form, or to give a shout out to a standout performer. The end of last week's match at Las Vegas however is something that can't quite go without discussion. At the end of the match, as most PRFC fans were, I was furious to the point of of threatening a 6000 word diatribe about how shit, and yes that is the only word for it, shit, the officials were in that match. That being said, what was I going to do other than to prove that officials, who are most likely poorly paid, in a 2nd tier league, doing a thankless job sometimes make mistakes, and sometimes those mistakes alter the outcome of soccer matches. It's not quite as simplistic as the old you win some, you lose some, and it all evens out in the end cliché, but at the end of the day there were bad calls made by both sides. What I do have an issue with is in the video above that PRFC manager Rick Schantz was not given any kind of an explanation at the end of the game. I just doesn't seem like a very "PRO" move by an organization that calls itself by that moniker. On the other hand, perhaps the lack of response was response enough in itself. Perhaps this was the Malik Badawi's way of saying "I fucked up coach". Now this would be good enough in most cases if I hadn't already written this passage in my article from October 18, 2019. "Rarely do I say that a referee effected the outcome of a game, much less call one out by name, but if Malik Badawi never officiates another Phoenix Rising match, it will be too soon. In a league that is known for poor officiating, when supporters of multiple clubs know you, by name, and think you are the worst, that really says something. To say that the penalty given to the Real Monarchs was an egregiously bad call is an understatement." What am I getting at here? I have written an article about nearly every Phoenix Rising match for the past 2 seasons, and only twice has a referee been so poor that I have called that referee out by name. AND BOTH TIMES IT'S THE SAME GUY!!! Malik Baldawi, you are an absolute embarrassment to the league and your entire profession.
Podcast With With PRFC Defender Darnell King
Ok, now that, that that is out of my system, I would like to mention that there are a lot of positives to take away from last week. First, I talk about them every week, but how can you not with Solomon Asante, who had a goal and an assist on the way to earning USL Championship Player of the Week honors, and Junior Flemmings, who added his 10th goal of the season, and easily could have had at least 2 more if not for some bad luck and solid goalkeeping by Edward Delgado of Las Vegas. Realistically, without Delgado, who made 6 saves, several of them spectacular, this game could have been 5-1 going into stoppage time. In fact, if you erase the last 10 minutes of the game plus stoppage time, this was one of PRFC's most complete performances of the year. When Yamikani Chester scored for Las Vegas in the 80th minute, it was the first shot that the Lights had put on target all night. They also showed patience on offense, putting 9 of 18 shot attempts on target, which is the first stat I look at after a loss or draw by Phoenix, because usually when they don't play well, you will see a low shot percentage. Ultimately, you can't really call this anything different than what it is. They played well enough to win and get 3 points, but melted down at the end and left with a draw. I hate to make speculations about things like this, but I know as a fan watching the game, when 4 minutes of stoppage time was announced, by the time it got past 5 minutes in stoppage time, I was mentally listening for the whistle at that point. It's hard to think that at some point Phoenix players at least mentally started looking at the clock and listening for the whistle. After all, it is human nature to be ready to punch the clock once you feel your job has been done. All things considered, the idea that this happened on some level is the only logical explanation of how the match ended.
While Las Vegas was celebrating a draw over Phoenix like they had won the World Cup, as discussed in our interview with Darnell King. For PRFC, it's bounce back week, which really shows the club's "anything but a win is a loss" mentality.
Bounce back week.— Phoenix Rising FC | Rising Together But Separate (@PHXRisingFC) August 29, 2020
⏰ 7:00 p.m.
📍 Greater Nevada Field
📺 @CW61Arizona // @abc15 app
MATCHDAY HQ: https://t.co/Roe13pwJgc#RisingTogetherButSeparate | #OwnThe* | 2020 Season presented by @equalityhealth pic.twitter.com/ly4853xQuU
Rick Schantz On Playing On The Road
It cannot be ignored that Phoenix has not been the same team on the road that they have been at home this season. Now 4 games isn't a massive sample size by any means, especially considering half of those were a tough back-to-back trip to Orange County, but looking back to last season, 51 of Phoenix's 89 goals game at home, or 57% of their scoring output. On the road they allowed 20 out of their 36 goals, which is 55% of the goals they shipped. This all adds up to them being a +35 at home last season, and +16 on the road. Now, all of these numbers are excellent for home or road, no matter who you are, and it is to be expected that you are going to be better at home than on the road. What is eye opening is just how much better. When all the dust has settled and the numbers have been crunched, this means Phoenix was +1.12 goals per game better at home than they were on the road last season, and in this sport anything that is a swing of more than 1 goal per game is massive. This season has been even more pronounced though, as Phoenix has scored 20 goals and allowed just 4, in 5 home matches, or +16. On the road that have scored 8 goals and allowed 6, or a difference of +2. In other words, they have been a +3.2 average in 5 home matches, and just +.5 in 4 road matches, which is a WHOPPING different of +2.7 goal differential in performance on the road, versus at home. It should be strongly noted that the quality of competition on the road has been much better than it has at home for the most part, but Reno may be the best team they have faced all year, so far, period. It is a place they had success playing at last year, winning an easy 3-nil victory in what was expected to be a tough match then. That being said, this year's Reno team may have even more scoring punch than the one that finished 2nd in scoring to Phoenix in the Western Conference last year, with 72 goals. (Their pace of 18 goals in at game would put them at a total of 76.5 if was continued over a 34 match season). Note: All stats in this section are taken from and based on last year's 34 match regular season, and excludes playoff stats.
While we are not, and never will be a political podcast or blog, and in fact go out of our way to keep things political out of our materials, in the current climate it cannot go without being stated that while we are excited that the USL Championship match between Phoenix and Reno will be played as scheduled, we fully support all athletes who choose to peacefully protest for any reason that they see fit, and also everyone in this country's right to peacefully protest as guaranteed by our constitution.
As Jekyll and Hyde as Phoenix has been at home versus on the road this season, for Reno, it doesn't seem to matter where they are playing. They have an impressive home record of (2-0-1) and an even more impressive road record of (4-0-1). While they are a team with an explosive offense, they also have allowed more than 1 goal just once all season, and that was in a 5-2 win over Portland Timbers 2. Their goalkeepers have been outstanding as well. So far Ben Beaury (4 starts) and Eric De La Cerda (3 starts) have gotten most of the action, and both have post almost an exactly 87% save percentage! To give you an idea of how good that number is, it would almost be good enough to keep a hockey goalkeeper in his job, much less soccer, where anything above 65% is usually considered serviceable. They have combined for just 1 clean sheet between them, so they haven't been completely unbeatable, but just about, allowing just a combined 7 goals, through 7 combined starts. While they have managed to save 31 of them, the number that would be most concerning for Reno is the 38 combined shots these 2 keepers have seen in their 7 matches, which is 5.42 on target shots per game. In other words, they have needed their keeper to be as good as they have been. In recent matches it has been Beaury getting a bulk of the action, so it's my best guess that we will see him tonight. Whoever it is, is likely to keep kept busy against Phoenix.
This weeks odds come from draftkings.com, and since this is the 2nd week in-a-row they have delivered, we may have a regular odds provider going forward. When I look at this line, not much surprises me here, even money on a Phoenix win, about 2 to 1 on a Reno win, and a little more than 2 1/2 to 1 on the draw side. As I had mentioned the past few weeks, anything over 3 to 1 means the casino thinks the draw is unlikely, so with this line the draw is definitely in play. This is what the pros call a stay away game, in other words, the line isn't telling you anything unexpected that makes you think the casino has a strong feeling one way or another about what is going to happen. With this line the casino is just basically trying to get enough money on all 3 sides to make sure that they don't lose money regardless of the outcome. On these types of bets is the best time to fold your hand and wait until next week. There is just not enough reward in any of these lines to outweigh the risk. The draw outcome has the highest reward, but with a pair of high powered offenses, and teams that need the full 3 points based on the current standings, I just don't see that there is enough value anywhere to recommend a wager on this match. That is unless you find somewhere offering a prop bet on a Flemmings goal.
Reno 1868 vs Phoenix Rising Prediction
Everything adds up to this being Phoenix's toughest test of the season so far, and I remember having that same feeling as PRFC headed to northern Nevada last year, only to see them leave with a resounding shutout victory. Ultimately, this is a team that Phoenix matches up well with because as Owain Evans expertly pointed out, you aren't going to beat Phoenix by outscoring them. As good as their keepers have been, the stats really show that Reno is a team that is also built to beat you by outscoring you, and frankly, as good as Hertzog, Francois, and Langsdorf (9 combined goals) may be, I will take the combination of Asante, Flemmings, Rufat Dadashov (22 combined goals) in a shoot-out type game any day. Really, the only way I see Reno winning this game is if whichever keeper ends up starting is just standing on his head all night to steal a hockey term. I think it's unlikely that Phoenix keeps a clean sheet like last year, Reno just has too much firepower, and I do think it will be close, but ultimately, I will say PRFC scores one more goal than Reno does, however many that may be. If you were to tell me this game is going to end 6-5 I wouldn't be shocked.