The Phoenix Rising goalkeeper competition will continue with two capable starters, Schantz says

The goalkeeping position has emerged as perhaps the most competitive position at Phoenix Rising FC this season. Two No. 1 players compete for the start after the club’s top goalkeeper, Zac Lubin, underwent back surgery.

Lubin, 31, joined the club in 2018 and has played more than 50 games. There were 23 goals conceded in the regular season and in the playoffs. He was a pivotal piece last season, including the Western Conference championship game, when the Rising went to penalties against the El Paso Locomotive and won 4-2, with Lubin saving one of the kicks.

But as that season started, the club announced that Lubin was undergoing surgery and would be out for at least a few months.

“There’s only so much you can do with a discectomy,” said aspiring manager Rick Schantz of the operation. “I had one preseason a few years ago and I know the first 6-8 weeks are really just trying to walk and stay upright. I think he does a great job and he says he feels great every day but I think Zac would. ” Lie to me no matter what. He’d probably play if I told him he could. “

Lubin’s main backup last year, Eric Dick, made a couple of appearances as part of the rotation but is no longer with the club.

There were three goalkeepers on the squad this season – Andre Rawls, Ben Lundt and Edward ‘Lalo’ Delgado.

Of the three, Rawls and Lundt are now fighting for the starting place, each playing as Rising 3-1 in the USL Championship Western Conference.

The 23-year-old Delgado was hired as a trialist in the preseason. He played at Westmont College, where he played 40-15-7 with a GAA of .87 in 64 career matches, and spent his final season at the Las Vegas Lights making 11 appearances for the club.

“We love Lalo and we think he will be a great goalkeeper in the future,” said Schantz. “He still has a lot of growth and a lot to learn. He was a fantastic player in the locker room and he hasn’t missed a beat since we got Ben. He works hard every day. “

Rawls, 29, is on loan from MLS Colorado Rapids. He was initially voted 44th overall in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft by New York City FC. He has USL experience and was loaned to Orange County in 2018 and Colorado Springs Switchbacks the following season. In these seasons there were a total of 45 appearances and 16 goals against.

“Andre is very calm and relaxed,” said Schantz. “I think he’s doing a good job with his feet, but he wasn’t under a lot of pressure against Vegas.”

He started in Phoenix’s first game of the year, a 3-1 win over San Diego Loyal, but Rawls was out late in the game with a groin injury and was suspended for up to two weeks.

Rising brought another emergency signature, Lundt, on loan from Cincinnati FC, another MSL club.

Lundt came into play with a great pedigree after spending his youth career in the German Bundesliga, playing with the U-17 and U-23 players from Hertha Berlin from 2011 to 2013. He then played college in Akron from 2016 to 18 and was number 37 overall in the 2019 MLS SuperDraft.

May 8, 2021;  Phoenix, Arizona, USA;  Phoenix Rising's Ben Lundt kicks the ball to his teammates during a game at Phoenix Rising FC Stadium.  Patrick Breen-Arizona Republic

The German goalkeeper was on loan with Louisville City FC for two seasons and won the USL Championship Goalkeeper of the Year last season.

His USL experience immediately proved crucial for Phoenix as the goalkeeper was loaned to the club earlier in the week and started a few days later in his game against Oakland Roots.

“It wasn’t easy to be honest as ideally you want to have a few weeks of preseason to get used to the style of play and the movements of the backline and the whole team as it wasn’t easy for the rest of the team,” said Lundt to come to Phoenix. He was able to achieve the 3-0 win against Oakland.

He went on to take to the streets against the Tampa Bay Rowdies, 2020 Eastern Conference champions. Phoenix lost 2-1 but Schantz said: “He did well and it wasn’t his fault that we didn’t win.”

The 6-foot, 6-inch goalkeeper uses his size to his advantage and there is no stress of air ball defense when he’s back.

“He’s such an intimidating figure in goal,” said Schantz of Lundt after his first game. “Whenever there’s a cross, don’t get too nervous because he’ll get it with his strength. There’s a pair that he hit that I’d like to catch for him, but when they get to zero.” At the end of the game you don’t really say much to the goalkeeper. “

Rawls is now healthy again and Schantz has hinted that there will be a competition between Rawls and Lundt in the future to see who starts. Schantz has given no indication of who would start in Sacramento on Saturday but believes they will do well no matter who it is.

“Now, this week, it’s a big competition and now we have two # 1 that we’re comfortable with,” said Schantz.

Lundt understands the competitive factor that he considers important.

“We are in competition, but ultimately we are professionals,” said Lundt. “We know that the competition will do everyone better. Overall, that’s what we’ll need later. It’s going to be a long, long year with more than 40 games, so we’re shooting with playoffs. We all have to be on one side, and that’s because competition is good for everyone involved. “

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