PHOENIX – Phoenix Rising FC kicked off its season on April 30 and sits in first place in the USL Western Conference Pacific Division standings. Despite struggling to train in the offseason due to the coronavirus pandemic, the team boasts a 3-1 record and perhaps some of its motivation comes from the team’s new stadium at Gila River’s Wild Horse Pass. The new stadium has training fields for the team, which its old home at Casino Arizona Field lacked. It also features a lot more room for fans.
“People are excited to get out there and get the season rolling for sure,” said Joe Farrell, who ranks first in goals among defenders for the Rising and has been with the club since the end of 2017.
He said he is looking forward to getting on the pitch in the new outdoor stadium along with his teammates.
Earlier this spring, assistant coach Juan Guerra, who signed with the team this offseason, said watching the construction set a new expectation.
“It’s great to see how the stadium is growing every day. When you drive by in the morning, you understand the responsibility that we have when you see everything that’s being built around us.”
The new location includes paved roads for fast entry and exiting, an enhanced video board, a larger press box than the previous one, improved sound and a new family-friendly general admission section opposite the lively supporters area. But having two training fields, Farrell said, is a big deal.
“Because we had the one field in the one practice field at a Casino Arizona Field, which was great, but there were times in the year we’ll get torn up and it’ll get a little messy, get a little sloppy. So now we’ll be able to always be training on the top tier pitch,” Farrell said.
Guerra said the second training pitch opens up what the players can do for training.
“So we kind of like to use one field for like, warm up passing drills, technical and tactical activities, when it’s pretty much a small site,” Guerra said. “And then when we want to open up to bigger size and play bigger games, 11 versus 11, or do more structured tactical activities or have more space, we move up to the game field.”
Guerra sees Wild Horse Pass as an ideal environment for coaches and staff to help the players grow and develop as a team.
The new stadium has an additional 4,000 to 5,000 seats for fans, and although the season opened at 50% capacity, the Rising announced beginning on June 5 Wild Horse Pass will move to 100% capacity. Farrell said filling the stadium is always what the players want to see.
“You always want a packed house, you always want as many people watching your game as possible because it gives you that little extra boost, especially late in games,” Farrell said.
The Rising head to California this weekend to take on Sacramento Republic FC (2-1), Saturday at 7:30 p.m. before welcoming the San Diego Loyal (0-4) back to Wild Horse Pass on June 5 for what could be their first 100% capacity match. The Rising beat San Diego at home, 4-1 in their season opener.
Cronkite News’ David Payne contributed to this story.