Phoenix Rising FC assistant coaches Peter Ramage (left) and Blair Gavin await details of the USL 2020 season resumption. (Photo by Owen Evans / Cronkite News)
Joined by interim director of Phoenix Rising, Blair Gavin Arizona Sports Saturday To discuss Saturday’s USL playoff match against Sacramento Republic FC and Junior Flemmings, a six-match ban.
Gavin, who grew up in the valley, played professionally for Team Rising between 2016 and 2017, appearing in 45 matches for his hometown team.
He was appointed as interim manager after Rick Chantz was placed on administrative leave indefinitely on October 1 due to the Junior Flemings incident.
Flemings was suspended for six matches on Tuesday, confirming that he will miss all playoff matches in the league. Gavin believes Rising can beat the Premier League’s top scorer loss in the regular season, using a balanced attack.
“Junior was a big hunk, on and off the field, and we’re still trying to find a balance from that,” Gavin said. “But it’s the next guy mentality and we have some guys who have stepped up like you saw in our last game. All these guys filled the shoes Junior had. Yeah, it’s going to be tough, and there’s no denying that.
“But I do believe in these guys and I think they can accomplish something special based on who they are as people and how willing they are to play with each other.”
Gavin referred to the fact that Flemings’ suspension would place an additional offensive burden on the back of Azerbaijani striker Rufat Dadashov, who finished the regular season with 11 goals in 15 matches.
Dadashov is the only youngster remaining to finish the regular season with two-digit goals, with Solomon Asante finishing third in the team with six titles.
Gavin expects the team to advance collectively during Saturday’s game, which starts at 7:30 pm local time.
He believes Rising will go on without missing a win due to the cooperation he had with his fellow coaches and team players ahead of Saturday night’s match.
“It was 100% collaborative,” Gavin said. “I am counting on the people in this organization to help me. Not just the other coaches but the players as well. Everyone helps me and I am grateful for that. So far everyone has been amazing and I’m really grateful for that.”
Face the Republic of Sacramento
Gavin and Phoenix Rising will meet Saturday night against the Sacramento Republic for the first time this season.
The caretaker manager thinks Saturday’s game will be difficult to prepare for, given the lack of knowledge on the field of the opposing team.
Gavin is confident that the team’s pre-match preparations can compensate for some of that, however, along with the Rising experience in the playoffs, after winning the USL Championship Western Conference in 2018, the fan shield in 2019 and Group B at the Western Conference in 2020.
Gavin said, “Having players like that can explain how you need to start the game, how you need to exit in the second half, and how you need to prepare for the game, as these are just invaluable pieces for the team.”
“As a coach, I definitely relied on them to deliver the messages because it’s so touching when your teammate shows you the way along with the self-help guide as well.”
Gavin added that Rising expects a strong challenge Saturday night from the Republic of Sacramento, who lost 8-6-2 during the regular season.
“It’s going to be very difficult,” Gavin said. “You would like to be able to recognize someone’s strengths and weaknesses on the basis of playing with them. But we did a lot of study about them and some movies and played with some of the opponents they played with. Tonight it’s not certain how everything will match, but that’s the exciting part of it. “.
“So, all of our men are looking forward to it. It is definitely a challenge, but it is what it is and we are looking forward to it.”
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