The Phoenix FC Wolves return to Tempe this Saturday night after two weeks and four matches on the road to host the Real Salt Lake reserves team of Major League Soccer (MLS). This is a match that counts in the USL PRO League standings for the Wolves as well as the MLS Reserve League standings for Real Salt Lake, as determined in an agreement the two leagues reached earlier this year.
This will be the second meeting of the teams this season, as Phoenix FC played Real Salt Lake to a draw in Sandy, Utah on April 22. Despite being issued first half red cards and playing with only 9 players for much of that match, Phoenix FC played its best defensive half of the year in holding off a fierce Real Salt Lake attack to hold them scoreless and earn a point with the draw.
Phoenix FC is coming off of a winless road trip on the East Coast in which the Wolves played four matches in two weeks. It was a frustrating road trip that was highlighted by close games and missed opportunities, and the Wolves are hungry to get back home for a chance to earn some regular season points with a healthy roster and no major injuries.
The first meeting of these two teams was highlighted by a first half brawl that earned three red cards: goalkeeper Andrew Weber and defender Renan Felipe Boufleur were ejected for Phoenix FC; and defender Kwame Watson-Siriboe for Real Salt Lake. Following a missed Real Salt Lake free kick attempt, a scuffle at the edge of Phoenix FC's box quickly turned into both teams fighting.
Phoenix FC was outmanned 10 - 9 for the remainder of the game. Real Salt Lake attacked furiously in the second half with the advantage, but Phoenix FC's defense made key stops when needed. Goalkeeper Sheldon Parkinson, who was in for Andrew Weber, survived numerous wide shots and made some spectacular saves to keep Real Salt Lake from reaching the back of the net.
With time running down, Real Salt Lake pushed its side for one last offensive effort but came up empty after 5 minutes of stoppage play. Despite registering 24 shots to Phoenix FC's 4 shots, the match ended in a draw.
The series between these two clubs is part of the groundbreaking partnership announced by MLS and USL PRO earlier this year. As part of the partnership, each MLS side that isn't directly affiliated with a USL PRO club will play a home-and-home Reserve League series against a team from USL PRO.
The Real Salt Lake reserves team features a number of players who start for and have significant playing time with the club's MLS lineup, including defenders Abdoulie Mansally and Carlos Salcedo, midfielders John Stertzer and Sebastian Velasquez, and forwards Joao Plata and Robbie Findley.
Phoenix FC has started a number of different lineups in recent weeks, looking for the right on-field combination since the return of standout forward Darren Mackie to the lineup after an early season injury. Mackie has returned to playing form as of late and is beginning to gel with the team, and his presence and experience will be needed as the Wolves look to pick up some points against a solid Real Salt Lake squad.
This week's matchup will be played at Sun Devil Soccer Stadium in Tempe, this Saturday, June 15. Kickoff is scheduled for7:30pm, and tickets can be purchased at www.phoenixfc.com.
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