CHANDLER – Juan Guerra was determined to bring a different style of play to Phoenix Rising FC.
In his second game as coach, he did just that, and the Rising beat Rio Grande Valley FC 2-1 Wednesday night at Wild Horse Pass.
“We want to be offensive-minded,” Guerra said in a prematch press conference. “We want to make sure we can have the ball and we can create spaces in between the lines and attack with numbers while at the same time be very solid defensively.”
Guerra, who was an assistant coach for Phoenix Rising last season, wants his team to dominate games by controlling possession and dictating the tempo of the game. Midfielder Aodhan Quinn believes his team has adapted well to its new coach in such a short time.
“I think the way he wants us to play, a lot of guys are buying in and excited about it,” Quinn said. “We changed our style of play a little bit. It’s a little more possession-based, and I think the guys are really positive about it.”
From the first whistle, Phoenix Rising embodied the style that Guerra wanted to see. The Rising pressed high, tried to retain possession of the ball and wanted to make the Toros uncomfortable from the start.
In the first half, the Rising had the better of the exchanges and took the lead on a headed goal from Luis Seijas. RGV equalized right before halftime, courtesy of sloppy passing at the back from Phoenix.
In the second half, the Rising continued to have more possessions than the Toros and create better chances. Seijas scored his second goal of the night with a long-range shot finding the bottom right corner.
The Rising had a tense last few minutes to the game as they barely held onto the lead with RGV rattling a shot against the bar in stoppage time. Ultimately, Phoenix held on to earn three significant points in its fight for the seventh playoff spot in the Western Conference.
After the game, Seijas praised his new boss.
“You can tell that the way Juan wants us to play, you can find the spaces and you find the pockets,” Seijas said. “We are going towards that identity that Juan wants.”
After the key win, the Rising are back in the thick of the playoff race for the seventh spot in the West. They sit five points behind the Las Vegas Lights, with a game in hand. The Rising will travel to face the Colorado Springs Switchbacks on Saturday night.