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Rising FC look to beat Republic FC on the road for first time in club history

Left to right: Amadou Dia, Mustapha Dumbuya, Devin Vega, Kevon Lambert, Junior Flemmings and Jason Johnson. (Photo courtesy of Phoenix Rising FC)

Phoenix Rising FC returns to action Saturday night away to Sacramento Republic FC at Papa Murphy’s Park.

PRFC is coming off of a 4-0 win over Tacoma Defiance FC in which it matched a team record for the most goals scored and the largest margin of victory at Casino Arizona Field.

The victory puts Rising tied for ninth place in the USL Western Conference standings, but because of the parity within the conference, PRFC (10 points) sits only five points off of first place Portland Timbers 2 (15 points) while also having a game in hand. The club’s 14 goals also rank fourth in the league as Phoenix has scored two or more goals in five of its seven matches this season.

Rising’s team rating is now 6.9 which finds the club with the third-best rating in all of USL Championship while also remaining second in the league in shots on target per game (6.3), per Opta.

Jamaican forwards Junior Flemmings and Jason Johnson combined for three goals and two assists, including one from Flemmings to Johnson.

The performances were good enough to name Flemmings to the Team of the Week (in the starting XI) and Johnson as an honorable mention (on the bench).

This is Flemmings’ second Team of the Week nod and his four goals on the year put him among the top 10 goal scorers in USL Championship.

Goalkeeper Zac Lubin also picked up his third clean sheet (one less than league leader) in his four matches this season after becoming the starter. Phoenix has only allowed one goal in its last four matches after allowing eight goals in its first three.

Per Opta, Solomon Asante has put in an MVP performance thus far in his 2019 campaign, as he currently has the best average player rating (7.9) in the entirety of USL Championship while also leading the league in shots on target (2.1) and key passes (3.4) per match.

He has scored a goal or had an assist in five of the team’s seven matches, putting him in second place for the most assists in the league, just one behind the league leader.

In the 12 matches between the two sides, Phoenix Rising’s record is 2-6-4 and the club has never beaten Republic FC in Sacramento (0-3-3).

PRFC last defeated SAC in 2017 in which current assistant coach Peter Ramage put one in the back of the net.

Republic FC will see a familiar face Saturday night as Rising forward Adam Jahn played for Sacramento while on loan from MLS side San Jose Earthquakes in 2014 and 2016. PRFC forward Shaft Brewer Jr., who is on loan from MLS side LAFC, spent 2015 in SAC’s youth academy where he led the team in goals.

Last season, SAC got the better of Rising as Republic FC won the first meeting 3-1 in Phoenix, followed by a 0-0 draw in the California capital.

Republic FC currently sits in seventh place in the Western Conference standings with 10 points while also playing one less game than Rising FC. SAC wins the tiebreaker over PRFC for having more wins on the season thus far.

Sacramento’s success this season has been because of its defense that has only allowed five goals in six matches (tied for second-fewest in USL Championship) and leads the entire league in successful tackles per match with 14.7.

But Republic FC’s offense has been lacking as the club has only been able to muster more than one goal in just one of its six matches in 2019.

Although Republic FC didn’t play last week, it got a big boost in its MLS bid hopes as commissioner Don Garber announced that MLS will be expanding to 30 teams. Sacramento’s future stadium has already been approved should the club become an MLS franchise.

Republic FC’s last match was April 13 away to Timbers 2 in which Sacramento lost 1-0 and defender Charalampos Chantzopoulos was red carded, making him ineligible for Saturday’s match against Rising FC. Sacramento was able to get some work in last week as the club played and beat the Stanford University Men’s Soccer Team, 1-0.

Phoenix Rising will also see former players, as goalkeeper Josh Cohen will likely be in net for Saturday night’s contest. Cohen allowed only one goal in his two starts last season for PRFC, good enough to earn the club four of the six points possible.

SAC forward Tyler Blackwood could also be facing his former team as the Englishman scored eight goals with one assist in his one season in the Valley in 2016.

Republic FC’s top goal scorer is forward Cameron Iwasa, as his five goals on the year also put him in the top ten goals scored club with Flemmings. Iwasa’s hat trick against OKC Energy FC in less than 10 minutes and before the 30 minute mark awarded him the Player of the Week for Week 3.

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

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