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Ramage Embracing Changes in Phoenix

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 07/22/17, 9:32AM EDT


Almost a year after arrival, veteran defender is helping club’s upswing

Photo courtesy Michael Rincon / Phoenix Rising FC

Since arriving in Arizona a little less than a year ago, veteran Phoenix Rising FC defender Peter Ramage has seen up close the changes that have come to soccer in the Phoenix market.

“It’s been chalk and cheese, both on and off the field, to what it was when I first came here,” the former Premier League defender said. “We’ve got an unbelievable complex, obviously where we play and are training, it’s exciting to be a part of it. To have seen it from the start to what we’ve got now, it’s exciting. … The ownership have been working their socks off to make sure they give us every opportunity to be successful on the field as well as off it.”

The concept of what is now growing in Phoenix was presented to Ramage by the duo of the club’s former Head Coach Frank Yallop and his Assistant Marc Bircham. The way that the club has evolved since the purchase of the club late last season, through the rebrand to Rising FC and the establishment of an ingenious home venue has capture the imagination of the local community, with packed crowds filling the Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex throughout the first half of the 2017 USL regular season.

The team itself, which underwent a pretty good makeover of its own in the offseason, is also putting itself in position to be a contender in the 2017 USL Cup Playoffs. Entering Saturday night’s road game with Tulsa Roughnecks FC at ONEOK Field (8:30 p.m. ET | Match Center), Phoenix is on a six-game undefeated streak, and is level on points with the eighth-place Roughnecks. The additions of the likes of Omar Bravo and Didier Drogba to the squad have made a major difference, of course, but Ramage also gives plenty of credit to new Head Coach Patrice Carteron.

Photo courtesy Michael Rincon / Phoenix Rising FC

Hired as Yallop’s replacement earlier this year when the two-time MLS Coach of the Year resigned to return to his family in Northern California, Carteron brought a fascinating resume from both the club and international game to the position. The passion Carteron brings for the game, and for what Rising FC is building, has been contagious.

“Patrice has come in and he’s been brilliant. I can’t speak highly enough about him,” said Ramage. “His attention to detail, he’s changed quite a few things in our training regime, and we’re on an unbeaten run under him.

“He was a defender as a player, so it’s lovely to work with him and pick his brain on the defensive qualities that he had as a player and bringing in as a coach, and we’re slowly starting to see that coming into our game and we’re getting more solid as a defensive unit, and more open and attacking going forward.”

The cohesion Phoenix is seeing on the field is being helped by the camaraderie visible off the field within the squad. Keep an eye on Rising FC players on social media, and there’s plenty of fun being had away from the field when the serious business of winning is put on the back burner.

“You’ve got Didier Drogba in our group chat, which to some of these rookies, it’s like a dream come true to have someone of his profile willing to socially interact with us as well as interact with us on the pitch,” said Ramage. “It’s good to have that camaraderie off the pitch. The successful sides I’ve been on in my career, it’s been down to being professional on the pitch because you’re good pals off the pitch too. This season I’ve found that, and it’s really good to be part of a group where everybody will interact and everybody gets along with each other.”

Photo courtesy Nik Pennington / Phoenix Rising FC

When it comes to the business on the field, though, the focus is there for both Carteron and the senior members of Rising FC’s squad. The visible determination shown by the likes of Drogba – whose stoppage-time free kick against Orange County SC two weeks ago allowed the undefeated run to continue – and fellow veterans Omar Bravo, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Jordan Stewart to push the side to success is indicative of the attitude they bring to the club.

“[Drogba] still wants to win the league title this season, and next season,” said Ramage. “He wants to win every game, same as all our lads. They’re born winners. For me, that’s why I came here as well. I didn’t come here to have a ‘fun in the sun’ sort of stint for the last couple of years of my career, I want to win things too, and that’s what we as senior players are trying to instill into the younger guys.”

With the right result on Saturday, Rising FC’s chances at earning a chance at that championship would get a solid boost. With a positive mindset going to Tulsa, all Ramage and his teammate are looking for is a chance to show how far they and their club have come.

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