Phoenix Rising FC will travel to Greater Nevada Field to play Reno 1868 FC this Tuesday, June 18, 2019. It is the first USL Championship match-up of the year between the two clubs who are both currently in the top 5, in the Western Conference. Phoenix comes into the game with 26 points, having claimed 1st place in the conference with their victory over Orange County SC on Saturday. Reno are in 5th place, and sit on 23 points, meaning that a victory would pull them up to even on points with Phoenix. Reno also comes off a victory this past Saturday, a 4-2 result of Los Angeles Galaxy II. With both clubs coming into the match on just 2 days rest, don't be surprised if both sides are resting a few of the regular starters.
This could be an interesting match-up, because it is an important battle between two clubs fighting at the top of the table in the Western Conference. It is also a game being played on a Tuesday night by two clubs who are on short rest which, as anyone who has been watching football for any amount of time knows, means anything can happen. It's hard to bet against Phoenix, as there is not another team in the league that comes close to matching their current run of form. Not only have they won 5 in-a-row, the have won all of those matches by two or more goals. To top it all off, they have played 240 minutes since they last allowed a goal in the 25th minute against Real Monarchs SLC on May 25, 2019. Reno has been playing well of late as well, they are 3-1-1 over their past 5 games. Their 30 goals scored, and +9 goal difference on the year are both good enough to rank them among the top 3 in the Conference, and they have the advantage of playing this one at home. Everything seems to point to this being a close game.
Reno 1868 vs Phoenix Rising Vital Information
This game will be broadcast on ESPN3, 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 Tuesday, June 18, 2019.
Referee assignments have not yet been published, but can be found here once announced proreferees.com.
This will be the 5th meeting all time between Phoenix Rising and Reno. In the previous 4 meetings, Phoenix has won 1 times, Reno has won 1 times, and there has been 2 draws. It was a draw in the most recent of those, 0-0, at Casino Arizona Field, back on October 6, 2018. Phoenix Rising were the victors, 1-0, the last time the two clubs met at Reno back on March 31, 2018.
Five Points That Shouldn’t be Overlooked
It is hard to overstate just how dominant Phoenix has been over their recent 5 game winning streak. They have outscored their opponents by a combined total of 19-3, a +16 differential over 5 games! This includes a win of 3-0 over Orange County, 4-0 over Las Vegas Lights FC, and 5-0 over Tulsa Roughnecks FC.
In spite of having just 3 losses so far this season, Reno's season can best be described as inconsistent. They have been much stronger at home, and have shown they can take down strong opponents in their yard, having beaten New Mexico United at Greater Nevada Field in April. On the road, they have proven vulnerable, having dropped matches at San Antonio FC, and at Real Monarchs, who are currently 15th and 16th in table respectively.
There might not be a player in the USL that is playing any better than Phoenix Rising captain Solomon Asante is. Asante was named First Team All-League in 2018, his first season in the USL. Last year he was second on the team with 14 goals, and added a team leading 9 assists. This season, the Ghanaian National has stepped things us another notch, with 7 goals and 7 assists in just 12 games so far this season. One of those goals was this worldie last week that should surely win Goal of the Week in the USL.
The Reno 1868 attack is lead by Jamaican forward Brian Brown, who is among the USL leaders with 8 in 2019, to along with 5 assists thus far. They will be without him tomorrow though, as he is currently playing for the Reggae Boyz in the CONCACAF Gold Cup. Phoenix continues to be short a pair of Jamaican's due to Gold Cup duty as well. Stalwart defensive midfielder Kevon Lambert and rising star (see what I did there) Junior Flemmings who is also an 8 goal scorer with 5 assists this season, will both miss Tuesday as well.
Reno will miss Brown for sure, but they are a team loaded with experience. Looking up and down their roster, you will find a number of guys who have played 4-5 years in the USL already and will not be shaken by playing on short rest. Forward Corey Hertzog, who has 7 goals on the year so far, is going to be the go to guy for them scoring wise. Watch out for midfielder Seth Casiple to be the one trying to set him up. He is a dangerous player, who is currently 5th in the USL with 93 crosses. He is 10th in total passes with 778, and he is making them count as well, having completed a whopping 47 key passes this season already.
Reno 1868 vs Phoenix Rising Prediction
As impressive as Phoenix's last 5 games have been, the level of competition against them has been mediocre at best. Reno will be by far the strongest side they have met over the past month and half, and they have to do it on the road, and on short rest. Both clubs just played Saturday, and both are missing key players due to the Gold Cup, so this should be a bit of a wash. Phoenix has been a club that has struggled in mid-week games traditionally (see April 17, 2019 against Austin Bold FC). Head coach Rick Schantz has been criticized at times for resting guys, and not bringing out his "A" lineup in these matches, so it will be interesting to see if he holds to that strategy tomorrow. As important of a match as this in the standings, I just can't see him going that route though. The last thing Phoenix wants to do is leave Reno even with the 1868 on points. If Schantz plays his regulars, I don't see them losing this match with they way they have been firing on all cylinders. I do think a clean sheet is a bit much to ask against such a potent attack, and expect this to be a relatively high scoring game. If Phoenix runs out a lineup with 6 changes from last Saturday, as they did in the aforementioned Austin match, you can throw this prediction out the window.
Prediction: Phoenix Rising 4 Reno 1868 2