CHANDLER, Ariz. — Phoenix Rising FC hosted USL League One side Union Omaha in a preseason match on a training pitch at Wild Horse Pass on Wednesday.
The friendly was broken into thirds, with substitutions being made during each of the two intermissions.
From that standpoint, the match results were 0-0 after the opening half hour, 2-1 Omaha after 60 minutes and 2-1 come the final whistle — the last of which was predominantly trialists and academy players.
The only change made for Phoenix at the first intermission was newly signed loanee goalkeeper Andre Rawls coming out for Zac Lubin. But don’t take that as being Lubin’s fault despite being the only changing variable. The first goal came from a set piece header and the second was a sublime finish in the bottom corner.
“I’m not even worried about the defending right now because I think we just got so frustrated with our lack of finishing that it put us in really bad positions because we got exposed and really opened up,” manager Rick Schantz said.
Phoenix opened the scoring at the beginning of the second period thanks to striker Rufat Dadashov, who was able to get in behind and slot one past the Union Omaha keeper.
But that was really the only bright spot for PRFC in the attacking third. Despite the likes of Santi Moar and Solomon Asante causing their usual havoc on the wings, the attacking trio up front wasn’t able to capitalize on multiple moments and chances inside Union Omaha’s penalty area.
“I think clinically we were very poor — buildup was fantastic. … Final third has just been not there yet,” Schantz said. “Usually it’s the last to come. We’re missing chances, guys aren’t making the proper runs.
“Crosses — we probably had eight or nine crosses in dangerous positions that were just horrible crosses. We’re trying to float balls in instead of trying to whip them in with pace. … We didn’t win any areal duels. Second balls — we were probably good in the first 30, first 60 maybe. But if you’re not going to score goals, you’re not going to win games. … From our own goal to about their 18, we were very good. From there we weren’t and that’s why they scored two and we scored one.”
Perhaps the biggest change to Schantz’s starting XI for the first 60 minutes was moving usual starting No. 6 midfielder Kevon Lambert to the backline to be a center back partner with James Musa.
Musa-Lambert center back duo
— Jake Anderson (@jwa1994) March 24, 2021
“You could see we were trying to do something a little different with Kev at the back and Aodhan Quinn — creative in buildup, breaking lines, very, very good,” Schantz said.
“We did it on purpose a little bit today because we expected to have a lot of possession of the ball,” Schantz added. “… It was fun to see Kev and Musa and with Aodhan handling any sort of pressure really, really well. And that allows our front guys to take more risks and stay a little bit higher.”
The manager also noted that center back Tobi Adewole is still nursing a hamstring injury.
Despite Wednesday afternoon’s contest technically concluding as a loss, Schantz is looking at the glass half full.
“We’re two weeks into preseason, starting our third week. We still have five weeks until the first game,” he said. “The season is a marathon, not a sprint. You can’t win the Championship in preseason, I can promise you.
“Our eyes are set on better performances. It’s a little slower than anticipated. … We’re going to be fine. I saw so many bright things out there today. Things that we used to not be very good at and that used to be a kind of a weakness for us. And what we are usually good at — right now it’s just not clicking, so I’m not too worried.”
Phoenix Rising will get another go at Union Omaha on Saturday at 11 a.m., as PRFC will host the 2020 USL League One Finalists at Wild Horse Pass.
As Schantz eluded to, his primary focus will be his side’s attacking prowess. After all, he did say he’d like to score 100 goals this year over the 32-match regular season (3.125 goals per game).
“For the group that played the first 60 minutes, I think their sharpness in the final third because we got in behind quite often,” he said. “Solo was in some really good, dangerous positions. I thought Jon Bakero came back too deep and didn’t stay high enough.
“But Aodhan, his passing from the midfield is fantastic for us. Rufat needs to get in the box and stay in the box and stop coming so deep for the ball. It’s like no one wants to score on our team until they have the ball at their feet they think they can score. I’d like to see that improve.”