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Phoenix Rising Soccer Returns To Practice

Phoenix Rising Head Coach Rick Schantz
Phil Latzman/KJZZ
file | staff
Phoenix Rising head coach Rick Schantz in 2019.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has cleared the way for sports to return by allowing stay-at-home orders to expire starting on Friday.

But while most professional and college sports have remained on hold during the coronavirus pandemic, the United Soccer League’s Phoenix Rising returned to the field this week for limited practices.

The club is conducting non-contact drills, with no more than four players at a time and only one coach and athletic trainer on the field at the same time.

Rising general manager Bobby Dulle says because the league houses its own players, it’s made the transition to practice a bit easier.

“The majority of our players live together, live in the same apartment complex or condos — so they’re together quite a bit. So we’ve grouped them with the people they’re with already," said Dulle.

But safety remains the No. 1 priority.

“Our guys were very excited to get back out on the field. Mostly fitness related activities, but they got their foot on the ball at our facility in a controlled environment.”

Each player must undergo temperature checks before practice and bring their own water bottles, among other safety measures.

Dulle says the team and the league remains solvent and are not in danger of going out of business.

But playing games in front of the dedicated group of Rising fans who routinely pack the stadium to cheer the team on, is still a long way off.

 “They continue to be so engaged with us right now with the way they’re checking on us, just like we’re reaching out and checking on them,”  Dulle said.

“It will be really different to play without fans. That’s why we do this whole thing is the community, the region and the state of Arizona.”

The Rising played only one game back in March before the United Soccer League postponed its season indefinitely.

So, what are the next steps to return to actual matches and competition?

“When you start doing a full training, that’s when we’ll start permitting more contact.” Dulle said. “And then assuming things continue to go well, and there’s no setbacks, hopefully we’re in a position where we can do some sort of matches.”

The Phoenix Rising is Arizona’s first professional sports franchise to resume practice.

Despite Ducey’s proclamation that sports can return, the state’s other pro teams and college programs haven’t yet announced their plans for resumption.

Phil Latzman is an award-winning digital journalist and broadcast professional with over 25 years of experience covering news and sports on a multitude of platforms.