Phoenix Rising center backs bit by injury bug; Niall Dunn out 4-6 months

Feb 15, 2022, 7:07 PM | Updated: Feb 16, 2022, 9:28 am
Phoenix Rising center backs Niall Dunn (left) and Joe Farrell (middle) defend against Las Vegas Lig...
Phoenix Rising center backs Niall Dunn (left) and Joe Farrell (middle) defend against Las Vegas Lights FC forward Cal Jennings (right) in a 6-3 PRFC win at Cashman Field on Oct. 16, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo courtesy of Phoenix Rising FC)
(Photo courtesy of Phoenix Rising FC)

CHANDLER — Phoenix Rising FC has already been bit by the injury bug less than two weeks into the 2022 preseason.

Manager Rick Schantz said on Tuesday that 17-year-old center back Niall Dunn will be out four to six months due to an undisclosed injury.

The gaffer added that CB Manuel Madrid will be out for two weeks after suffering a slight groin strain in Saturday’s 2-1 preseason friendly win over MLS side Sporting KC at Wild Horse in Chandler.

The injuries to two center backs leave PRFC with two healthy CBs on the roster in James Musa and Joe Farrell with fewer than four weeks to go before Matchday 1 on March 12.

“I don’t know. Maybe, maybe not,” Schantz said of bringing in another center back while grinning. “We’ve got two here on trial that we’re looking at, but we’ll see because it’s late in the process. You don’t want to just bring someone in.

“Manu will be back in a few weeks and Niall will probably be fully fit right at the perfect time for us.”

The timing of the injuries will set up for an interesting starting center back duo come Matchday 1 against USL newcomer Monterey Bay FC at Wild Horse Pass.

I would expect to see Musa and Farrell begin the year as the team’s starting CBs, with Madrid battling Farrell for the starting spot once the Mexican defender is fully fit.

That would be a slight switch up over the last four years under Schantz, as Farrell continues to start the season as the club’s No. 3 center back, only to force the manager to put him in the starting XI come playoff time.

New year, new formation

Schantz also said on Tuesday that Phoenix Rising could play in a 4-4-2 at some point this season rather than its usual 4-3-3.

That’s because of the additions of strikers Claudio Repetto and Greg Hurst, both of whom are over six feet tall and provide PRFC with two true No. 9s.

“We needed a target striker. It’s been a while since we’ve had our prototypical target,” Schantz said. “After we lost Rufat (Dadashov), we replaced him with Jon (Bakero) and Darren (Mattocks). It’s just really nice for us to have somebody that can hold up play, help us win balls in the air when we need to. He’s a prototypical goalscorer and a great guy, very hard worker and a great professional.

“And you mix that with Greg Hurst who’s a very good off-the-ball mover, extremely technical. I wouldn’t be surprised if you saw us in a 4-4-2 at some point this year. I’m really happy with the strikers we have now.”

Phoenix derby

Phoenix Rising will host Valley United FC — a new NISA side that plays its home matches at GCU — in the second round of the U.S. Open Cup between April 5-7.

The match will be the first competitive game between the two clubs. However, PRFC is set to host the Phoenix derby in a preseason friendly on Feb. 23 behind closed doors.

“It’s gonna be great, they’re a good team. We watched them play a little bit against Kansas City,” Schantz said. “They’re a hardworking group. … I think we’re going to play them here in two weeks in a preseason friendly. We might have to reevaluate that decision.

“We’re excited. It’s good that Phoenix has two teams in the Open Cup. I think it’ll be great for fans to see two local clubs competing in a meaningful game.”

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Phoenix Rising center backs bit by injury bug; Niall Dunn out 4-6 months