The San Diego Loyal (2-1) — currently second in the Western Conference — travel to Arizona this Saturday, March. 26, to face Phoenix Rising FC (1-1).
The game marks the second away game for the Loyal in just four days after narrowly falling 1-0 to FC Tulsa (2-1) on Wednesday.
Phoenix Rising — currently eighth in the Western Conference — are also coming off a loss, falling 2-1 to Las Vegas Lights FC Saturday, March. 19.
The Loyal’s match against FC Tulsa saw a few changes from the Loyal’s previous 2-0 win over Sacramento Republic FC (1-1).
Camden Riley came in at Grant Stoneman’s center-back spot, Evan Conway came in at Collin Martin’s center-defensive-midfield spot, and Andrew Carleton came in at Nick Moon’s left midfield spot.
Now, a couple of these changes aren’t too surprising.
In the Loyal’s match against Sacramento, both Stoneman and Conway were substituted out, and both Riley and Conway came on. Stoneman was substituted off for Riley in the eighth minute of the match for an injury. Perhaps signifying Stoneman’s injury was still an issue coming into the match against FC Tulsa.
The one change that may concern some fans is the removal of Nick Moon.
Carleton got the start in his first match of the season for Loyal and played a total of 77 minutes before being substituted off for CJ Fodrey.
If the Loyal want to get back to the form they started the season in, they’ve got to be playing the players who have looked the best throughout these first three games.
Nick Moon has looked extremely dangerous running down the left side of the pitch. His link-up play with both Kyle Vassell and Alejandro Guido has caused multiple defenses issues. Also, the way he runs at the defense with the ball frees up plenty of space for players like Tumi Moshobane and Jack Metcalf to find space in the midfield and create chances. Moon currently has one goal in his two starts for the Loyal.
Thomas Amang, who has played a total of 77 minutes off the bench in all three games this season, has scored a goal, forced an own-goal, and looked extremely effective and dangerous every minute he’s been on the pitch. The reasoning behind him and Carleton receiving the same amount of minutes this season despite Amang playing two more games is beyond me. Amang clearly should’ve got the start against FC Tulsa if Moon wasn’t starting.
Another issue that could come up against Phoenix Rising this Saturday is Vassell’s lack of goals.
In Vassell’s 215 minutes this season, he has no goal contributions along with seven shots and only one on target.
Understandably, a striker may have a slow start to a season where they’ve moved to a completely different league. The only concern is that Vassel has had plenty of chances at goal. He’s had a couple of instances where he’s gone down a bit too easy in the box, perhaps looking for a foul rather than braving the contact and looking for a chance at goal. But he’s still feeling out the league and the referees, so hopefully, his goal-scoring prowess will be reawaken soon.
With a goal against Phoenix or even El Paso the first weekend in April. Vassel could awaken his true attacking mentality and go on to score plenty more goals for the Loyal. What Loyal fans need to see first is him taking his chances against Phoenix on Saturday, and hopefully, one will rip the back of the net.