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Previewing Phoenix Rising’s home opener against New Mexico United

(Photo by Ricardo Ávila/Cronkite News)

Phoenix Rising FC is set for its home opener against USL Championship newcomer New Mexico United Saturday night.

PRFC is coming off a 3-3 draw away to San Antonio FC in its season opener at the weekend. It was a hard fought and deserved point that was rescued at the game’s closing moments by Jason Johnson.

Former Rising FC forward Billy Forbes had a Man of the Match-worthy performance that included a goal and two key passes.

It will be the second match in a row in which Rising FC will be facing a member of last year’s Phoenix side.

Another familiar face will be on the opposing bench for the Week 2 matchup: Kevaughn Frater, a fellow countryman of Jamaican and Rising FC forwards Johnson, Junior Flemmings and midfielder Kevon Lambert.

Yes, that Kevaughn Frater.

The same one that filled in for injured Chris Cortez, Phoenix’s starting forward and leading goal scorer, in last year’s USL Cup Final loss to Louisville City 1-0.

New Mexico United was able to come away with a draw in its home opener against Fresno FC.

United forward Devon Sandoval hit a laser shot from 25 yards out into the top corner to give his side an early 1-0 lead. United would go on to capture a hard-fought point as Fresno would level the match early in the second half.

Even more familiar faces will be joining Rising FC for the home opener. PRFC announced Thursday the loan signings of Major League Soccer club Los Angeles Football Club forwards Shaft Brewer Jr. and Josh Perez, defender Tristan Blackmon and midfielder Javier Perez, giving Phoenix a total of six MLS loan signings, five of which are from LAFC.

It will be interesting to see when Rising FC manager Rick Schantz will implement the new loanees and how long it will take for them to gel with the rest of the squad. Blackmon would most likely be the easiest to install into the lineup immediately as he started along defender Joe Farrell the last three matches of last season’s playoff run. Although, with the announcement having come Thursday, the four incomers will have had minimal training time with the squad.

In last week’s match, Fresno FC was able to whip in several crosses that eventually lead to the equalizing goal against New Mexico United. Rising FC wingers Flemmings and Solomon Asante will be looking to exploit the space left out on the wings by United. The ability to deliver balls into the box is an enticing matchup for a forward like Adam Jahn, who stands at 6-foot-3, 201 pounds.

Here are some examples:

But the speed, skill, and technical ability of Asante and Flemmings also allows the Phoenix wingers to cut inside and play off of Jahn and Jose Aquinaga, leading to balls in behind the United defense. Phoenix Rising FC has one of the best attacking sides in USL Championship, if its three goals in the season opener wasn’t already an indicator. Phoenix was ranked No. 1 in USL Championship’s Week 1 power rankings on Monday.

Schantz went with a backline of Amadou Dia, Lamar Batista, Doueugui Mala and Mustapha Dumbuya last week away to San Antonio FC. Although the defense was really the only question mark in Phoenix’s performance, Schantz has shown he does not mess with a winning starting XI, especially with the likes of last year’s team minute leader (Dia), 6-foot-6 Batista and Dumbuya, formerly of Crystal Palace.

With the announcement of the multi-year contract agreement with Casino Arizona that is renaming the stadium Casino Arizona Field on Friday, the buzz for a Phoenix Rising FC home opener has never been higher. The agreement includes plans to build a new road to decrease the time it takes to exit the complex, a lengthy affair that has existed since its existence, and an increase in capacity of up to 10,000. However, a date for has not been announced for either project.

Phoenix Rising FC will host USL Championship newcomer New Mexico United in its home opener on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the newly named Casino Arizona Field.

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