San Antonio FC (7-0-2) will play Phoenix Rising FC (3-3-0) for the first time in 2017 at Toyota Field on Saturday night. As their name suggests, Phoenix is a club which has seemed to rise stronger from the ashes of Arizona United SC in multiple ways – ownership, MLS potential, stadium, etc.
Both clubs are coming off US Open Cup success on the road midweek. For San Antonio, the win brought their unbeaten streak in all competitions this season to 10 matches, while Phoenix’s win means they’ve now won four of their last five after starting the season with two losses. Both clubs made a number of changes for those midweek matches, meaning a slew of first-choice players will return rested for Saturday’s clash.
Despite big names like Omar Bravo, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Didier Drogba being available for Phoenix Rising FC in attack, it’s mostly the less-renowned players who have been propelling the club offensively. Their top scorer so far, midfielder Luke Rooney, has been ruled out for the season through injury though, and no other player has contributed more than a single goal.
Not among those eight other scorers, however, is Drogba, who still has yet to appear for Phoenix Rising. The club continues to use Drogba as a marketing teaser, but that won’t work much longer before fans of both Phoenix and other USL teams hoping to get a glimpse of the Chelsea and Ivory Coast legend get tired of the charade.
SAFC and Real Monarchs SLC are both setting a brisk pace at the top of the USL Western Conference; Real beat Phoenix 2-0 earlier this season, so SAFC will hope for a similar result to make sure all other clubs in their conference, including Real, continue to chase them.
Game Ten. San Antonio, TX. 5/20/2017. Kickoff 7:30 CDT
How to Watch: FOX Sports Southwest, USL Match Center, SanAntonioFC.com
Keys for SAFC: While SAFC’s defense has been a firm foundation for their success so far this season, Phoenix’s has conceded in all seven of their matches in all competitions. SAFC has had a potent offense so far, though perhaps showing signs of slowing down, so if the two teams follow their scoring and defensive form, it should mean SAFC grabs a couple goals and all three points.
Player to Watch: Defender Sebastien Ibeagha has played all 810 minutes of SAFC’s USL campaign so far at the heart of a stern defensive unit and was rested for the Open Cup victory midweek. He should return to the lineup to keep things organized at the back and lead by example. If he and the defense do their job right again and Phoenix concedes as usual, the match is SAFC’s to lose.
Pitch Black News Projected Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Restrepo; Newnam, Ibeagha, McCarthy, Cochrane; Reed, Pecka; Tyrpak, Castillo, Forbes; Ajeakwa
Jonathan Check SAFC 2-0 PRFC
Jose Mario Jimenez SAFC 1-0 PRFC
Aaron Marvel SAFC ?-? PRFC
Jesus Miguel Garcia SAFC 3-1 PRFC