Rising bolsters home advantage with full stadium capacity starting June 5

May 11, 2021, 3:35 PM | Updated: 3:53 pm
Union 602's Monica McPherson celebrates the first goal scored in Phoenix Rising's new stadium at Wi...
Union 602's Monica McPherson celebrates the first goal scored in Phoenix Rising's new stadium at Wild Horse Pass against San Diego Loyal on April 30, 2021. (Owain Evans Photo)
(Owain Evans Photo)

Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex at Wild Horse Pass will be at 100% capacity starting June 5 against San Diego Loyal SC, the club announced on Tuesday. However, masks will still be required to be worn.

The announcement comes one day after manager Rick Schantz said capacity restrictions were being removed for the team’s next home game vs. Las Legas Lights FC on May 22, which will still be played at 50% capacity.

“With the COVID-19 vaccine readily available, our fans feel safe at our matches,” GM Bobby Dulle said in a press release. “At full capacity, our season-ticket members can get back into their original seating locations and we can introduce our new venue to more Rising fans.

“I want to thank our fans and partners for being patient and loyal throughout this process. We feel confident we can make this change and do so safely by maintaining a number of the health and safety protocols put into place earlier this season.”

Single-game tickets for all matches on or after June 5 will go on sale on Friday.

It’s been over a year since the last time Phoenix Rising FC hosted a match in front of a full-capacity crowd. And after opening up the new stadium at Wild Horse Pass with back-to-back victories at 50% capacity, the manager is looking forward to having more than 5,000 fans in attendance for the first time since March 7, 2020.

“Can we get 10,000 or a little more? I don’t know what the fire marshall will say,” Schantz told Arizona Sports’ Doug & Wolf on Monday. “We want a full stadium. We want that place rocking. Gila River has been unbelievable for us. It really feels like home and we feel like part of the community. To see all our fans come out and see a full stadium, that’s going to make a huge difference.”

Rising went 2-0-10 in preseason — half of which were against MLS clubs — with one of the two wins coming on the very last friendly that was played in front of fans.

And after starting the 2021 USL Championship campaign with six points out of six, including a dominating 4-1 victory over San Diego Loyal SC in the opener, it’s evident that Phoenix thrives off the energy provided by Los Bandidos and Union 602.

But the south end is only half the equation in PRFC’s illustrious home-field advantage. The other half comes from Schantz’s high-pressing system that looks to create turnovers in the midfield and shorten the field for the attacking trio.

Now combine that with the heat that most opposing teams won’t be used to and you’ll see why the manager is so adamant about getting out to fast starts. If Phoenix can get out to an early lead, the opposition will be forced to push up in order to get back into the match, which only leaves them more exposed at the back when Rising continues to create havoc defensively.

“The whole idea is to bring intensity when we’re at home and right now we have around 5-6,000 fans,” Schantz said. “And they’re right on the field, it feels like 10,000 already.

“… Our philosophy is get after them right away, don’t let them have anything, don’t let them build any rhythm. I don’t want teams to come here and feel comfortable. … We want them to be nervous from the beginning and a little bit afraid.”

As Schantz has preached in the past, the best attack starts by building from the back — meaning objective No. 1 is to get a clean sheet each and every match. From there, the relentless pressure applied by all 11 players on the pitch allows the front three to benefit statistically from an overall team effort defensively.

But make no mistake, there’s a reason why PRFC trains in the morning under the sun, even during the hottest summer months. It’s to be well acclimated to the heat, as well as to have the match fitness that’s required to succeed in Schantz’s system. In fact, Rising’s 12-match preseason — which was one of, if not, the longest in USLC — may be a key factor as to why Phoenix has come out of the gates swinging this season.

“We believe that offense, it starts with great defense,” Schantz said. “About three years ago when I took over in the locker room, I came in after we had drawn four games. We won one, we lost one — things were not looking good. And I remember saying to the team, I said, ‘Listen, if I’m going down, I’m going to go down swinging.’

“And we changed our whole philosophy and it was to be the most aggressive team, to go after our opponents, make them fight for every bit of the field and since then we kind of haven’t looked back. We win the ball often in the opponents’ half and it’s kind of a short field, so scoring goals is a product of being closer to the opponent’s goal. It seems like such a basic philosophy, but it’s not easy to run as much as our guys do.”

Phoenix Rising’s next test will be an away trip to Tampa Bay, who PRFC was supposed to play in the 2020 USL Championship Final before it was called off due to positive COVID-19 cases in the Rowdies’ camp.

Kickoff is set for 5 p.m. and will be audio broadcast live on and on the Arizona Sports app.

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