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Phoenix Rising FC improves defensive transition; rides ‘hot hand’ in net

(Phoenix Rising FC photo)

After four games, the Phoenix Rising FC season wasn’t bad, but not great; it had recorded four straight draws, going undefeated yet winless a month into the season.

But on Saturday, Rising FC earned its first win, defeating El Paso Locomotive FC 2-0 with the team’s second consecutive shutout. The team’s head coach, Rick Schantz, said Wednesday something more than luck turned the team in the right direction and led to the victory.

“I think where we’ve been really good is in our transitions. And we say transitions, from defense to offense,” Schantz told Doug & Wolf on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station. “When we win the ball, we’ve still got that explosive counter-attack. We also have kind of the willingness to put together four, five, six passes before we get goal-scoring opportunities.

“As that little string of draws were going, we felt that our defense transitionally wasn’t very good. It wasn’t that we were bad players or bad defensive tactically, we just weren’t transitioning to when we lost the ball, being aggressive. And I think that’s what you’re starting to see is now the team is understanding that as quickly as we go from defense to offense, we have to do the same from offense to defense.”

To practice this, Schantz will split the team into three groups, say of seven players each. One group will play defense while the other two groups are on offense, creating a 14-on-7 situation, for example. It’s designed to help each side understand proper spacing across the field, as Schantz says defense is about being tight and compact while offense is more about being spread out.

Meanwhile, the team has seen some change in its last line of defense: goalkeeper. Two have seen playing time, Carl Woszczynski and Zac Lubin, though Chaparral High School product Brandon Keniston signed in January.

Woszczynski played the first three regular season games and allowed eight goals on 23 shots. Lubin made the last two starts and shut out the opponent in both games.

“Right now, it’s Zac,” Schantz said when asked who his starting goalkeeper is. “Carl, he’s a great professional and a good leader, he’s a pro’s pro. So he knew. We had three games … and gave up eight goals and things weren’t really going too well. I went and spoke to them. They’ve always been kind of 1 and 1A and said it’s time to make a change.

“So you kind of ride the hot hand. I’d say almost a little bit like hockey. When a goalkeeper gets hot, you’ve got to ride him.”

PRFC plays Wednesday night at Auston before returning home to play the Tacoma Defiance on Saturday. You can hear the team’s games streaming on ArizonaSports.com.

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