Phoenix FC: Accept No Substitutes
It was another typical weekend in the life of Phoenix FC. Two games. Two losses. Business as usual.
This time it was hardly difficult to see why as well. They played two back to back days on the road. That is a mostly difficult situation that most teams in any level would find difficult to navigate.
This begs two questions though. If they’re staying on the east coast for their games this upcoming week again the two Florida sides, why not spread the two games out a little farther? At least throw a day in there. It wasn’t an issue of wanting to save money on an extra night in a hotel. The team is still out East for another week. And if you’re going to play two days in a row, why would you field the same XI each game? Particularly if that XI produced zero goals the first night in Richmond.
Now I don’t wanna sell Richmond short here. They’re one of the best teams in the league. Playing in their building should be no cake walk and it wasn’t. Phoenix tried to take the game to them. They outshot them. A couple of offsides at least showed that the Wolves were attempting to get forward. But it wasn’t enough. A 30′ goal from Nate Robinson was enough for the Kickers to wipe away the midweek loss to DC United from their pallets and remain unbeaten in league play. The play from Phoenix was still rather encouraging. They went into a difficult building and at least didn’t get embarrassed. The defense only allowed a single goal. While not quite a result, this was a game that could’ve been built upon.
Then the very next night, Phoenix went into Wilmington and lost again; this time 2-1. The wear from the night before showed early, and the Hammerheads struck first in the 6′. Donny Toia was able to bring the game level towards the end of the first half, only for Phoenix to go down once again before the first half ended. Again, Phoenix outshot it’s opponent in the game, but failed to put any aside from the Toia goal onto net. Phoenix was a tired team from having played the night before and it showed. The flaws in the USLPRO scheduling reared it’s ugly heads and while I suppose every team has to deal with at least one double header or two this season, this one came at a bad time for a struggling Wolves side.
I can’t say I’m really disappointed. The Wolves did about as well as I expected them to. They looked at the very least a competent side in both road matches. You can only expect so much from a team making a cross country road trip and then playing two games back to back with the same starting lineup. Hell, you could even call how competent the Wolves looked impressive. But competence hasn’t, and won’t be enough for this team. They remain winless on the road, and are starting Orlando City and VSI Tampa Bay in the coming weekend. Both teams have exceptional home records. These will be difficult matches to steal points from.
There is growing concern amongst myself and my colleagues (read: myself and my cats) at head coach David Robertson’s lack of confidence in his bench. In a league in which you get 5 subs, Robertson seldom uses most, if all of them. I’m no expert, but you’d think during a two game stretch where fitness and rest were not a luxury, that a 5 sub, split shift would’ve been in store for both games, particularly if he was dead set on having almost the entire same squad both nights. Even in Wilmington only one of the two subs played more than 15 minutes. But again I’m no expert.
For Phoenix to have success going forward this team is going to have to come together and be an 18 man squad game in and game out. Sure when the squad is at it’s best, it shows flashes of danger and quality, but with injury, and general wear and tear, you can’t expect to see the same XI game in and game out, regardless of Robertson’s toughest attempts. The tactics and super subs need to become a part of the gameplan. Especially during congested schedule weekends on the road. The Wolves have shown no real tactical strategy or affinity for making the proper adjustments in games. No team can have success without figuring out at least to some level these basic soccer coaching fundamentals.
It has been a while since Phoenix FC has earned 3 points, and given the opponents and situation this weekend, I can only expect similar waiting this weekend. Considering it’s Orlando and VSI coming up, I can only hope that Phoenix doesn’t embarrass themselves. They didn’t last week, so they’re at least on the right path.