PHOENIX – The only thing Phoenix Rising FC players knew is that they would return to play on July 11. Finally, it appears additional details are about to surface.
The USL Championship announced June 4 that its Board of Governors had voted in favor of returning to play for the 2020 season. On Wednesday, several outlets, including ESPN and The Athletic, reported the two sides had reached an agreement – subject to approval by stakeholders – confirming the start date and other season details, which likely include competition format, scheduling and broadcast plans.
Rising players and coaches have been waiting to hear about how the season will look.
Jon Bakero, a Rising FC midfielder, said he didn’t have any information on how the team is going to travel, where it is going to play or any of the safety procedures that are going to be offered the league.
“At the end of the day, you hope the league is going to protect us as players,” he said.
Assistant coach Blair Gavin said the team is trying to make the most out of the situation.
“We want to look back at this and say this is a time where everyone improved, not just on the field, but maybe off the field and how to deal with uncertain times,” Gavin said.
The club has been back to non-contact training for the last three or four weeks, Bakero said. This was following the longest stretch of his life without soccer.
“It was longer than our offseason,” Bakero said. “And in the offseason you usually want to rest.”
Phoenix Rising FC played one game before its season came to a halt. On March 7, it defeated Portland Timbers 2 FC, 6-1.
Following last year’s record-breaking run when the club won a record 20 straight games – a U.S. professional soccer record – and a regular season title, expectations were high coming into the season. For the club to win its first game and then have the season suspended could easily have affected the club’s morale. Players say it didn’t.
Gavin and Bakero said the team is excited to return and players believe they are a top tier team in the USL Championship.
“Our mentality hasn’t changed and our ambitions haven’t changed,” Bakero said.
Phoenix Rising FC is coming back, and they want to win.