New digs, more success: Phoenix Rising look to extend home unbeaten streak against San Diego

The Phoenix Rising hoped their new facility at Wild Horse Pass would benefit the team. It has, and fans enjoy it, too. (Photos by Miles Aronson/Cronkite News)

CHANDLER — The Phoenix Rising have never lost a regular-season game in their new stadium at Wild Horse Pass, a streak they hope to continue Saturday against the San Diego Loyal.

The Rising are unbeaten in 17 straight regular-season home games since the move before the start of the 2021 season.

From fans to coaches to players, the new stadium has been a game-changer.

“Our facilities are amazing. The organization has done a great job preparing us and giving us the best in the league, in my opinion,” Rising center-back Joe Farrell said. “So being able to train with our weights, with our practice fields, everything we have involved, ice bath, everything really gets us prepared for that match on Saturday.”

The lone loss at Wild Horse Pass came in the playoffs last season when the Rising were defeated after extra time and penalties by Rio Grande Valley FC.

The Rising previously played at Casino Arizona Field in south Scottsdale. The new stadium was constructed with the hope of increasing capacity and addressing fan concerns.

It did. Wild Horse Pass near Chandler added 4,000 seats, bringing the capacity to 10,000 and making it one of the larger stadiums in the USL.

“The Gila River Indian Community has a history of successful partnerships with many professional and collegiate sports teams in the Valley,” said community Gov. Stephen Lewis, who also noted this is the first professional team to play games on Gila River land.

Home has treated the Phoenix Rising well. In the season’s first game, the Rising won at home against Monterey Bay FC. (Photos by Miles Aronson/Cronkite News)

A priority for the Rising was addressing complaints that fans had with the previous facility. Poor traffic flow was a consistent issue at the old stadium, which was near Tempe Marketplace.

Another concern of fans was restroom access. The previous stadium only had portable toilets but the new stadium has permanent restrooms.

The team also added a towering two-sided video board and a family-friendly general admission section.

“I think they’re putting together a fantastic product,” longtime Rising fan Niall McCarthy said. “They’re taking this team very, very seriously with the investments in the facilities and the investments in the players. Every game is a treat for the fans.”

The new facility didn’t just improve the fan experience. It added start-of-the art amenities for players and staff, too.

With the new stadium came two large practice fields, a weight training area, locker rooms and a favorite of players, the ice bath. A permanent ticket office was built between the practice fields and stadium along with an on-site administrative office for staff.

“The field is fast, it’s big, which we can take advantage of, because there’s a lot of space. It’s hard for teams to get really compact,” Rising coach Rick Schantz said.

Fans have contributed to the unbeaten streak. The Rising averaged almost 7,000 fans per game in 2021, while this season’s home opener drew more than 8,400. Season after season, the Rising finish near the top of the United Soccer League in average attendance.

Behind the south goal sits the Rising supporters’ section, which is full of passionate fans who set the tone in the stadium. The beat of drums can be heard all game long, as well as chants and cheers. When a goal is scored, red smoke pours out of the section after fans light celebratory flares.

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“Once you hear the roar of the fans, the Bandidos, everyone involved, it really gets you going and gives you the chills a little bit,” Farrell said. “It gets your heart rate up and gives you that little extra motivation to make that extra run or connect that final pass for that goal.”

It appears to have had a positive effect on the Rising’s performances. They played 16 home matches in 2021, winning 11 and drawing five. All five of the Rising’s regular-season losses last year occurred away from home.

The trend has continued into the 2022 season. In the first game, the Rising won at home against Monterey Bay FC before falling 2-1 in an away match against Las Vegas Lights FC the next week. They’ll face quite the test Saturday against San Diego, which is coached by U.S. soccer legend Landon Donovan.

San Diego Loyal are fourth in the Western Conference while the Rising are just three points behind them with a game in hand, meaning a win would draw them equal on points.

“You can make up a lot of ground with one win. So early in the season, the points just are magnified,” Schantz said. “Right now, it just looks super, super important because there’s only nine points available, and like I said, each game we play, the goal is to get three points.”

The Rising hope for fans in full force Saturday at Wild Horse Pass. The game kicks off at 7:30 p.m. and will be carried by Bally Sports AZ and ESPN+.

If the team wants to extend its regular-season home unbeaten streak, Schantz said, it’ll have to be more competitive, better in duels and perhaps most importantly, come with the right attitude.

Harrison Campbell HAIR-i-son CAM-bull
Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Harrison Campbell expects to graduate in May 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism and a minor in film and media studies. Campbell has interned as a reporter at O’Rourke Media Group and worked as the lead boxing reporter at Fight Club.

Miles Aronson Mi-les Air-uhn-suhn
Sports Visual Journalist, Phoenix

Miles Aronson expects to graduate in May 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism. Aronson is working for the Phoenix news and sports bureaus.