The Eric Quill Era didn’t start like anyone hoped for on Saturday night when United gave up late goal and dropped points to visiting RGV. The good news for the club is that United has a quick turnaround when Phoenix Rising comes to The Lab on Wednesday and another chance to pick up a win.
Rising comes to Albuquerque for the second time this season, the first being an appearance during the US Open Cup. In that meeting, rising was undone by their inability to tame Greg Hurst or Daniel Bruce. And that has been their issue for most of the season. While they have some formidable pieces in their attack, like last year they have been a mess at times defensively. Even in their most recent stretch of matches, they haven’t been able to do enough to slow down their opponents. Having surrendered nineteen goals to this point in the season, they’ve shown some progress over the past two months, but not enough to see them where they would like to be.
The bright spot this season for Rising has been the play of Manuel Arteaga, the Venezuelan forward. In fourteen appearances on the season, he’s been able to slot home seven times to lead the Arizona club. He’s a player that has been successful in most places that he’s been, most recently at Indy Eleven before joining Rising. Arteaga has become the focal point of the Rising attack and provided he’s healthy, he can be a handful for any opponent. Rising likes to find ways to get the ball into his feet near the edge of the area and allow him to generate space himself or use other runs to draw attention away.
Player to Watch
Manuel Arteaga – Even though he was already mentioned above, the key matchup here will be Arteaga against Kalen Ryden. Two veteran players who know what the expectations are of each of them. Ryden should have the physical edge of Arteaga, but the Venezuelan will be able to occupy one to two defenders every time down the pitch, potentially opening something else up for other players.
Despite the draw with RGV, United showed in the first half a glimpse of things to come under Eric Quill. They were pressing better than had been seen in other matches and the passing was the best they’ve shown all year.
“I’m proud of the guys for coming back from 1-0 down to get control of the game. We had momentum at halftime,” said Head Coach Eric Quill after the match against RGV. “I thought the football is getting better. The belief in what we want them to do is getting there.”
By using that much ball movement, United was able to keep RGV out of position and open up chances in different areas for guys like Austin Yearwood and Daniel Bruce. At times they were essentially freely roaming around the pitch and it confused the Toro defenders. United looked creative on offense and created more quality opportunities despite not having a great number of them overall. If United can leverage that into more opportunities against a porous Rising defense, it could be a big night.
“We were extremely disappointed to miss early chances. You want to get that first goal at home,” continued Quill. “We want to get the crowd involved and we’re going to look at it and diagnose what went wrong.”
Defensively United is recovering from some injuries and has been missing the services of Will Seymore. After missing again on Saturday, captain Sam Hamilton once again slid into the back line and added a measure of familiarity to what was seen on the pitch. Ryden and Hamilton handled the rotations well and did a much better job of marking runners, which will be crucial against a Rising side that likes to draw attention away from Arteaga and Danny Trejo to get them free.
Player to Watch
Greg Hurst – Hurst scored in the first match against Rising this year and will be motivated to show more of what he can do against his former club. Hurst has been finding a new partnership with Josh Dolling and the duo has proven to be effective in their time together on the pitch. Look for Hurst to use his size and physicality against Rising to generate chances inside the area.
Coverage of Wednesday night’s match on ESPN Radio 101.7 The TEAM will begin at 6 p.m. with the pre-game show. Adam Diehl and Andy Hageman take the microphones and get you ready for the match. Afterward, the duo will bring every minute of every play beginning at 7 p.m. The match will be broadcast live on ESPN Radio 101.7 FM The TEAM, via The TEAM app, and The TEAM website.