Rick Schantz preps for new era at helm of Solo Asante-less Phoenix Rising

Feb 24, 2022, 7:06 PM | Updated: 9:50 pm
Phoenix Rising FC manager Rick Schantz celebrates winning the Pacific Division with captain Solomon...
Phoenix Rising FC manager Rick Schantz celebrates winning the Pacific Division with captain Solomon Asante after a 1-0 win over Orange County SC at Championship Soccer Stadium in Irvine, California on Oct. 2, 2021. (Owain Evans Photo)
(Owain Evans Photo)

It’s the dawn of a new era for Phoenix Rising FC.

For the first time since 2017, PRFC will embark on a USL Championship campaign without former captain and two-time league MVP Solomon Asante.

In fact, manager Rick Schantz will also be going into his first non-interim tag season at the helm of the club with someone other than the Ghanaian donning the armband.

“Solo was like a son or a younger brother to me,” Schantz told Arizona Sports’ Bickley & Marotta on Tuesday for Newsmakers Week. “We were very close and losing a player on the field that sees the game the same way as I do and communicates with me very well throughout the game was very difficult. … It’s not going to be easy.

“It’s definitely difficult to replace a player of that quality. And some people would say it’s impossible — you don’t ever really replace him. You just have to kind of move on and thank him for being here and cherish the good memories that we have.”

Not only did general manager Bobby Dulle have to replace Asante, but the GM also had to fill other starting spot departures such as forwards Rufat Dadashov and Darren Mattocks, left back and Valley native Tate Schmitt, midfielder Jon Bakero and goalkeeper Andre Rawls. To replace each of those spots, Dulle and Schantz brought in Claudio Repetto and Greg Hurst, Baboucarr Njie, Carlos Aguiano and Ben Lundt, respectively.

“We’re really excited with the group that we’ve brought in,” Schantz said. “We made a couple of big offseason changes. … When [players like Asante leave], you have an opportunity to re-tool.

“I feel really excited about the players that we brought in. Some very, very good exciting guys that are gonna score a lot of goals and get after it. We’re an aggressive organization. We like to take the game to the opposition. … Having Marcus Epps, Baboucarr Njie and Carlos Aguiano and a few others has really made the team stronger and I’m looking forward to it.”

Schantz said on Feb. 1 that he had already picked the next captain, but has remained persistent on not revealing who until a week before Matchday 1 on March 12. The manager did, however, tease that it would probably be announced at the kit reveal sometime around March 6.

“We have other great leaders,” he said. “We have guys who have stepped up in the offseason and pushed the team to new heights.

“And what we’re looking for now is when that season starts and when there’s that clutch moment that we need somebody to step up, it’s going to be somebody new. There’s a whole long list of players I think that are ready for some breakout seasons.”

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Rick Schantz preps for new era at helm of Solo Asante-less Phoenix Rising