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Phoenix Rising FC win first home match, record third clean sheet of 2019

(Photo courtesy of Phoenix Rising FC)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Phoenix Rising FC won its first home game of the 2019 campaign Saturday after defeating Tacoma Defiance FC, 4-0.

The victory was played in front of a seventh-consecutive sellout crowd of 6,544 and is PRFC’s third clean sheet in four matches.

“It’s all credit to the players,” said Rising manager Rick Schantz. “They had a team meeting on Thursday. I pushed them really hard in film on Friday. We looked at our game in Austin for about an hour in the film room and I just said it’s not good enough. Each guy got up and kind of spoke. These guys came together.

“And then again today after I spoke to the team, they asked all the staff to leave the room and they had another meeting. It’s about time. It’s about time they understand what they’re capable of and I just have to push them.”

Although the scoreline does show Phoenix’s superiority on the night, there were a few nervy moments for Rising fans in the opening minutes of the game. Prior to PRFC breaking the scoring open in the final 15 minutes of the first half, goalkeeper Zac Lubin was called into action after multiple Phoenix turnovers in the midfield and defense led to three major chances for Tacoma.

Fortunately for Phoenix Rising, Lubin saved the only shot on target.

“Keeping clean sheets is the easiest way to win games,” Lubin said. “So we’ve really concentrated on the defense. We have the four in front of me that have played together now and play really well together so we can’t do it without them.”

Junior Flemmings finally broke the deadlock in the 34th minute after displaying a brilliant piece of skill and footwork to take on multiple Tacoma defenders and ultimately curl the ball past the diving goalkeeper into the back of the net.

Three minutes later, Johnson doubled Rising’s advantage.

One minute before the half, Phoenix put the game to bed as the Jamaican duo of Johnson and Flemmings paired up for a beautiful piece of play that resulted in a 3-0 Rising lead.

PRFC continued to display its dominance early in the second half, as Flemmings unselfishly elected to forgo a shot at a hat trick and played the ball for Asante who was able to remain composed and give his side a commanding 4-0 lead.

In all, Phoenix Rising dominated the match with its 68.9% possession, 23 shots, 85.1% passing accuracy and 25 crosses compared to Tacoma’s 31.1% possession, eight shots, 63.4% passing accuracy and one cross.

Rising FC did it all without its normal number one choice at striker as Adam Jahn was unavailable due to an upper-body injury. PRFC was also without midfielder Jon Bakero, who was out due to personal reasons. Super-sub Jason Johnson and Devin Vega started in place of the two absentees.

Minutes into the second half, Tristan Blackmon came on for Joey Farrell, who left the match after requiring stitches.

Rising FC has now allowed only one goal in its last four matches since Schantz named Lubin the starting goalkeeper.

“Zac [Lubin] was unbelievable there at the end,” Schantz said. “He made two great saves. A.J. [Cochran] was fantastic in the air. We have to check on Joey. I think he got stitches. That’s the only reason we brought him out.

“But Collin [Fernandez] and Kevon [Lambert], you can see why we got to the Final last year. Those two guys are warriors. I told them that they might not be the prettiest soccer players but their heart is on their sleeve and I love it.”

Phoenix Rising FC returns to action April 27 away to Sacramento Republic FC.

Kickoff time is set for 7:30 p.m., and the match can be audio streamed on ArizonaSports.com.

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