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At the end of a long spell of frequent matches, Phoenix Rising can finally take a breath in its training sessions.
Maybe not for too long, though.
“First day back was intense for the first day back,” defender Channing Chasten said on Tuesday. “I’m guessing tomorrow’s going to be pretty tough as well.”
Rising’s players were granted an extra day off training to start the week — something appreciated by an increasingly tiring squad.
“These couple weeks have been really hard,” Arturo Rodriguez said. “We got the results, and now we have this week to prepare for the next game and give us a bit of rest for everybody.”
With the team’s next match not coming until Sunday, the slightly longer week to work with means that Rising’s extra day off will make this something like a normal week of training, just a day later.
“Everything is based on your game model and your game day,” coach Rick Schantz said. “Game day minus one we do something very similar every week, it doesn’t matter. Minus two, very similar. Minus three, minus four: you just work off of the game.”
Wednesday — when Rising has played its Open Cup matches — is typically game day minus three. On that day, Rising’s training sessions look to simulate a match-like environment with high-intensity running and more.
“That way, the body kind of gets used to playing Saturday, Wednesday, Saturday, Wednesday,” Schantz said. “The fact that we have a week without a midweek game, it just allows us to kind of train it rather than having to play the game.”
Rising played six games over the month of April, with two midweek cup matches supplementing the usual league schedule. That heavy workload led Rising’s players to clocking up miles, something Schantz pointed to as a concern.
The fixture congestion did offer a new opportunity, though: a chance to try a more balanced approach to rotation.
“I think that in years past, I’ve been guilty of rotating the squad on Wednesdays because of fixture congestion,” Schantz said. “In years past, I think I relied too heavily on just 10 players, so I’m actually thankful that it came at the time that it did because it forced me to give other players opportunities as well as understand that sometimes we have to make tactical adjustments.
“Our players can handle it. They’re more intelligent that you sometimes as a manager give players credit for. This team has done a really good job of handling these changes.”
Over the month-long spell, Rising has tinkered with a variety of tactics. Rising’s usual 4-3-3 system isn’t gone, but other options — such as playing with three center backs — have also been utilized.
“We haven’t changed the philosophy on how we want to play, but now we’re trying to figure out how to use that philosophy in different systems, different formations, different styles in order to take advantage of our opponents’ weaknesses a little bit,” Schantz added. “In the first four, five games we gave up a lot of goals. It was something we had to address, and the guys have taken it to heart. We’ve decided that maybe this group is one where we work as hard as we can to not give up goals and we know we can find them, it doesn’t matter how spectacular they have to be.”
Now, as they prepare on the training pitch for their next clash, Rising is riding the wave of success from that congested period.
“I think we have confidence,” Rodriguez said. “I think the team is doing really well. Every player is playing fantastic, so I don’t think we’ll have any pressure. Well, we have pressure, but it’s good pressure, you know?”
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