Photo courtesy of LAFC.
Late last week, Phoenix Rising announced that Jamaica international Peter-Lee Vassell would be joining the club on loan from Los Angeles FC. Vassell is the latest in a string of players that Phoenix have received on loan from LAFC. Like Tristan Blackmon, Shaft Brewer, Javi Perez, and Josh Perez before him, Vassell is here in Phoenix to develop his own game, get competitive minutes, and eventually return to LAFC as a more complete player.
Still, LAFC aren’t the only ones that benefit from sending Vassell to USL. With a packed upcoming schedule – Phoenix has six games coming up in just over three weeks – being able to rotate an international-quality central midfielder into the lineup will undoubtedly boost Phoenix Rising’s overall fitness and skill level.
Adding Vassell to the group gives Phoenix Rising six players who are capable of stepping into central midfield at any given moment.
“I think José [Aguinaga], James [Musa], and Jon [Bakero], if we had gone another 3 or 4 games in a row without any rotation, they probably would have broken down, Schantz said on Tuesday. “Then you have Lambert…and now adding Peter-Lee to the mix and having Joey Calistri, I feel like we could change all three of them and not lose a beat.”
Though LAFC have the right to re-call PLV at any time, Rick Schantz said after training on Tuesday that the Jamaican will be with Phoenix for their game on Friday against Sacramento Republic and will travel with the team for their upcoming two game road trip against the Tacoma Defiance and the Colorado Springs Switchbacks.
Vassell has been going back and forth from Phoenix to Los Angeles, practicing with LAFC on some days and with Phoenix on other days, but all signs point to Schantz and company trying to fully-integrate him into the squad before the postseason.
Per USL rules, in order for Vassell to be eligible to compete in the playoffs with Phoenix, he will need to make five appearances with the team before the end of the year. With one game already under his belt, PLV only needs to play in four more matches between now and the end of the regular season to become eligible.
Regardless of whether or not it’s fair that some of the full-time Phoenix players could lose minutes to a player who is only training with the team on a part-time basis, Schantz is going to give Vassell the chance to play.
“If they’ll [LAFC] let him stay here, we’ll keep giving him opportunities,” Schantz said after Friday’s 4-2 win over Reno.
After just two partial weeks in Phoenix, Vassell is adjusting well to his new environment. LAFC and Phoenix don’t differ very much in their overall tactical styles, so that has made the transition easier for the Jamaican.
“It’s a good approach from the guys, coming in, putting in the same work. It doesn’t matter which team,” Vassell said on Thursday. “The requirements of the game is still the same, so go in there and do your best all the time.”
However, while tactical continuity is helping Vassell adjust to Phoenix, no tactical setup can help a player deal with the Phoenix heat.
“It’s very hot here, but everyone says I’m from Jamaica so I’m supposed to be used to this,” PLV said. “But I’m not!”
From watching film of his minutes with LAFC and the Jamaican national team earlier this season and seeing his brief cameo on Friday night, it’s pretty clear that Vassell can be a difference-maker in midfield for Phoenix Rising.
““He’s a gamer,” Schantz said on Friday. “He just does his thing. We put him in the game and he turned it up a notch.”
If you want to get more familiar with PLV’s game, I would recommend checking out the Twitter thread that I put together on him last week. Vassell likes to charge forward into space with the ball and make runs into space without the ball. Here’s an example of Vassell (#8) spotting a pocket of open space, moving into it, and creating a chance for a teammate:
PLV isn’t an overly-flashy player, but he does have good vision, above-average technical ability, and moves quickly in all phases of the game.
While he’s not likely to start on Friday against Sacramento, expect Vassell to come off the bench and frustrate the opposition with his fresh legs at some point in the second half.