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MEXICO CITY — Phoenix Rising played to a 1-1 draw in a friendly against Atlante at the Estadio de la Ciudad de los Deportes on Wednesday.
Renzo Zambrano gave Phoenix the lead in a shortened preseason clash, before Iván Ochoa equalized for the hosts. Here are four takeaways.
Several Rising players, including Daniel Krutzen and Carlos Anguiano, played for the entire 70 minutes of game time. Others, such as Channing Chasten, played a substantial spell on their return from injuries. Danny Trejo recorded his first minutes of the 2023 preseason.
“You can really see the character of the guys when they’re pushing and when they’re struggling,” Rising coach Juan Guerra said.
Mexico City is located at a higher altitude than any of Rising’s USL opponents. The friendly took place more than 1,000 feet higher than Colorado Springs. The fact that some of Rising’s players were able to perform for a full 70 minutes in those conditions against the back-to-back Apertura tournament champions of Liga de Expansión MX bodes well for the coming weeks.
One of the challenges of the friendlies lined up for Rising’s Mexico City trip was that the club’s opponents would be in full swing with their seasons underway. That seemed evident throughout the match against Atlante. The hosts controlled much of the possession, but despite changes in the back line during the game, Rising mostly managed to keep them from creating serious chances.
After the game, Guerra described the defensive performance as “good.”
The sole blemish on the defensive record came off a set piece late in the first half.
“Those always hurt, and those always can be avoided, especially because of the mistake that we made that led to the set piece,” Guerra said. “I believe that mistakes are part of the process, and mistakes will happen. Mistakes also give us the opportunity to fix things. When a mistake happens or when things are not really going all our way, we don’t let that get us weak. We just use it as something that will get us stronger in the long run.”
Arteaga plays key role in attack
Manuel Arteaga came to Phoenix with some question marks over his head. Last season, the Venezuelan scored five goals, but those came in just two separate games.
This preseason, Arteaga has been doing his best on the field to shut down that talk. After scoring in his previous two preseason appearances, he picked up the assist on Renzo Zambrano’s opener against Atlante.
Arteaga’s contributions went beyond just that, though. He proved pivotal at various times as Rising broke with urgency on the counter attack. He provided a physical presence, proved capable of winning the ball in the air and being able to fight off attempts to bully him off of the ball on the ground.
Yet while he possesses those physical qualities, it would be unfair not to also comment on his technical ability in controlling the ball at his feet. With both of those combined, he proved a handful for the Atlante defense.
“Manu brings a lot of things on the field and also off the field,” Guerra said. “If you close your eyes, the only guy you can hear talking is him, and laughing and doing things. He’s always bringing something to the table.
“The most important thing is you saw the assist he did today. I did say that it’s important for us to have 9s that can score goals, but also they can do things when they’re not scoring goals. Manu’s a guy that gives you important things in all phases of the game.”
Youth gets its run-out
While a lot of the bigger names took the field for Rising against Atlante, so too did two 17-year-olds: Liam Mullins of Rising’s academy and Efe Aror of the Barcelona academy in Casa Grande.
“They’re not here because it’s a gift,” Guerra said. “They’re here because they earned it. They were playing against a very strong team and in altitude, and they did a very good job.”
A third prospect was set to take the field, but was deemed unable to play at a late stage.
During the early phases of the game, both of the youngsters played out of position. For example, Mullins is usually a forward, but played as a right wing-back.
“When you have academy guys playing different positions with the first team, it adds another level of challenge to them physically, mentally, tactically,” Guerra said. “These kids have excelled in all of them. I’m very, very happy to have them here.
“It’s a clear message to the academy boys. It’s a clear message… for everyone in the state of Arizona and the city of Phoenix that we’re watching, and we’re going to make sure that we build bridges with academies and young players and coaches and teams in our state. At the end of the day, whoever deserves an opportunity, we have to make sure that we identify them and provide that opportunity for them.”