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Phoenix Rising’s Santi Moar finding form after unlucky start to 2020

Phoenix Rising FC forward Santi Moar. (Arizona Sports/Ashley Orellana)

It’s been an unlucky year for Phoenix Rising FC forward Santi Moar.

After coming over from rival New Mexico United in the offseason, the Spaniard was ready to help PRFC win the one piece of hardware that has eluded the club in the last two years: the USL Championship Final trophy.

But before the 2020 season kicked off back on March 7, Moar picked up an injury that would keep him out of the opening Matchday 18. And unfortunately for the entire sporting world, all competitions were then brought to a halt by the coronavirus pandemic.

Fast forward to the July 11 restart of USL Championship play and Moar finally got to make his competitive debut for his new club. The winger would come on for 20 minutes and notch one assist in Phoenix Rising’s 4-0 win over LA Galaxy II.

But that’s when the Spaniard’s fortunes began to turn for the worse.

After coming on as a substitute for nearly 30 minutes in Rising FC’s 1-1 draw away to Orange County SC on July 16, Moar would get his first starting nod from manager Rick Schantz in PRFC’s very next match, which was oddly enough also away to Orange County.

In that match — sticking with the unlucky theme — Moar hit the crossbar from point-blank range and was shown a red card in the opening 45 minutes of play. The second of the two yellows that got him sent off was due to a controversial moment of gamesmanship between him and an OC coach that eventually led to the Spaniard pushing the coach.

Moar would have to miss a match due to suspension before returning against his former side New Mexico. Once again, the winger came on for 20 minutes and notched one assist in Phoenix’s 5-2 win. Then in just his second start for PRFC, Moar would bag his first goal in a Phoenix Rising kit in a 4-1 victory over Los Dos.

Now, in the last two matches, the Spaniard has had to start in place of forward Solomon Asante, who missed one game and started on the bench for the other due to a hamstring injury. In those two matches, Moar played all 90 minutes for the first time this season and also picked up a pair of assists in each game.

The forward could have very easily gotten his name on the scoresheet for just the second time in 2020, but instead elected to pass to teammate Rufat Dadashov on a two-on-one with the goalkeeper in a 5-1 thrashing of Las Vegas Lights FC.

However, in Phoenix’s 3-2 defeat at the hands of Landon Donovan’s San Diego Loyal SC, Moar was once again denied a goal in rather unlucky fashion, as the goalkeeper made an unbelievable save from close distance.

“Santi’s been fantastic. About three weeks ago, he came into my office and he asked to speak with me,” Schatnz told reporters via Zoom on Tuesday. “He said ‘I understand what my role is and I’m okay with it and I don’t want you to feel like you have to keep playing me or make me happy.’ Which was very mature for a guy like that.

“He said ‘Junior has been playing extremely well, Solo is the captain, he’s the best player in the league — I understand where I fit in and I’ll be ready when you need me.’ So ironically a week later, Solo has a little bit of a hamstring (injury) and Santi moves in on the right hand side — which is not his preferred position — and he’s been fantastic.”

The manager added that Moar had an InStat score of 280-285, which is a pretty high rating for an individual player. Compare that score with the likes of Asante or Flemmings — who Schantz said score in the 280s and 290s regularly — and you’ll understand the type of impact and production coming from the Spaniard despite not necessarily showing up on the goalscoring sheet.

“Santi was extremely good… he was a little unlucky early in the year, but we’re glad that we have him on contract for next year, that’s for sure. He’s a top-class person and I’m really fortunate that we have a player like Santi.”

Phoenix Rising fans should be thankful and excited to see Moar return to the form that became synonymous with his name last season. Because with Flemmings surely on his way to the next level — whether it be in MLS or Europe — Moar is positioned to be PRFC’s starting left winger in 2021.


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