Photo taken by Adolphe Pierre-Louis.

Everyone knows the legend of Robin Hood. Back in medieval times, Robin Hood would steal from the rich to aid the poor, endearing himself to the overworked and underprivileged commoners along the way. With the recent signing of Santi Moar from New Mexico United, Phoenix Rising FC is officially the anti-Robin Hood. 

In Moar, Phoenix signed one of the most dangerous attacking players in the league (Moar scored 12 goals in all competitions last season) away from one of the only teams that they could not beat in the club’s historically-good 2019 season. Instead of distributing talent across the league, Phoenix is accumulating it in large amounts. The rich get richer. 

To give the Spanish attacker a trademarked “Rising Tactics Welcome”, we are going to look at two main things in this article. First, what is it about Moar that makes him so dangerous? Then after we answer that question, we will get into a more hypothetical question: how will he fit in Phoenix Rising’s lineup? Let’s get into it.

Scouting report

  • Primary position: Left wing
  • Alternate position: Right wing
  • Dominant foot: Right
  • Most utilized move: Using his right foot to cut inside from the left wing
  • Attacking traits: 
    • Soft first touch
    • Excellent body control, able to accelerate and decelerate very quickly
    • Likes to shoot from outside the box
    • Skillful in 1v1 situations
    • Quick dribbler in transition
    • Plays low, driven crosses into the box with his left foot
  • Defensive traits:
    • Inconsistent, occasionally undisciplined defender
    • Can capitalize on sloppy moments from the opposition to start transition attacks

While the above list gives a lot of insight into Moar’s position, playing style, and skill set, it would be incomplete with out video evidence. So to provide more context, we are going to parse through some film. 

After watching Moar for even just a few minutes, the first thing that stands out is his right-footedness. He loves to receive the ball on the left wing, cut inside, run past defenders, and fire off a shot on goal with his right foot. 

As illustrated in the above clip, one defender is simply not enough to stop the Spaniard from getting a shot off. Last season, Moar started off hot, scoring seven goals in New Mexico United’s first seven games, before opposing defenses started to figure out that they needed to double-team him to avoid giving away free shots on goal.

Though there was an adjustment period, Moar proved last season that he could still be effective, even when teams began using additional defenders to stop him. He can switch over the right wing and away from the numerical disadvantage to break down an opposing fullback one v one in space. Also in the below clip, notice how soft Moar’s first touch is: he cushions the ball well with the inside of his right foot and immediately goes into his dribble move.

One of Moar’s most unique traits is his combination of skill and physical ability. He has quality on the ball – as the two above videos show – and athleticism to go with it. With the ball at his feet, Moar can go from zero to 60 or from 60 to zero with ease. His ability to change direction and speed at a moment’s notice allows him to beat defenders and drive forward into the attack.

While there are a lot of things to like about Moar’s game, there are a couple of things that Rick Schantz and the rest of Phoenix Rising’s coaching staff will work with Moar to improve during his time in Phoenix. First is his shot selection. Moar really likes to shoot from outside the box: he took twice as many shots from distance last season as Junior Flemmings did (52 vs. 26). More often than not, those long shots don’t truly test the goalkeeper.

There is room for Moar to improve defensively as well. He has the speed and footwork to be an excellent wide defender but occasionally lacks the discipline to be an asset without the ball. Instead of chopping his feet to prepare himself to run with the opposing attacker, Moar often runs straight at the ball as he closes down an opponent, making it relatively easy for the player with the ball to dribble by him.

Still, Moar’s does have defensive upside. Maybe his best defensive skill is his ability to read the game, anticipate when an opponent is going to take a bad touch/jump into a passing lane, win the ball, and transition into the attack. If you’re not ready for it, Moar will pick your pocket.

This part of Moar’s game reminds me a lot of Solomon Asante. Both players are always lurking, waiting for the opportunity to turn defense into attack. Schantz loves attacking quickly in transition, so acquiring another player who can create transition attacks is huge get for him.

Moar’s fit in Phoenix

Now that we’ve analyzed Moar’s playing style and skillset, the next logical question is “how is Schantz going to use him in 2020?” The short answer is: “I don’t know.“ Moar is a natural fit as an inverted left winger, cutting inside from the wing to the middle of the field, but Phoenix Rising already have one of those players in Flemmings. 

One of Moar or Flemmigns could easily move to the right wing to act as a more direct attacking threat, but that would force Asante either out of the lineup or into central midfield. However, the ball tends to stick at Asante’s feet, so he is not an ideal fit in central midfield (at least at the start of matches). 

If Asante isn’t the best option to play as a central midfielder, could Moar fill that role? Though Schantz mentioned the Spaniard’s ability to play as a number 10 in his RisingInsights video (which was excellent, but I’m sure if you’re reading this, you already know that), I’m not convinced that Moar would fit well in a central position. Like Asante, Moar loves to dribble. While he can play a final ball to setup a teammate for a shot on goal, passing doesn’t appear to be his first priority.

So, while I’m sure that we will see the trio of Flemmings, Asante, and Moar on the field together at various points throughout the upcoming season, I think it’s more likely that those three guys will rotate, with two playing at any given time. Ideally, the rotation will allow all three players to stay fresh for the entire season.

Regardless of where (and how often) Schantz decides to use Moar, there is no doubt that Phoenix Rising’s first signing of the 2019-2020 offseason is an extremely talented player with the potential to do the impossible: Moar could make Phoenix Rising’s historically-lethal 2019 attack even better in 2020.

The rich get richer.

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