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Jason Johnson equalizer at death rescues point for Phoenix Rising

(Photo courtesy of ESPN+)

Phoenix Rising FC opened up its 2019 campaign away to San Antonio FC Saturday night.

Rising FC manager Rick Schantz was given the freedom this offseason to mold his side with signings of his own following the removal of the interim tag just six days after last year’s USL Cup final defeat to Louisville City FC.

Last season’s Western Conference champions came into the match with five offseason signings in the starting XI.

Defender Joey Farrell starting on the bench came as a shock, as it left Amadou Dia as the only starting defender that also started against Lou City.

PRFC started the match on its heels as San Antonio had a goal disallowed for offside just three minutes in before a Ever Guzman tap-in took an early 1-0 after knocking on the door from the start.

Phoenix didn’t see much of the ball in the opening quarter of the match. Perhaps it was just first game of the season nerves, but once PRFC settled in midway through the first half, the game completely changed.

Rising FC began that transition by equalizing on the counterattack in the 22nd minute of the match. Debutant Junior Flemmings scored Phoenix’s first goal of the season after getting on the end of a Solomon Asante cross.

Phoenix Rising FC saw a familiar face amongst its opposition as forward Billy Forbes returned to SAFC following his 2018 season here in the Valley.

Phoenix watched in horror as Forbes carved through the PRFC defense, creating a plethora of chances for his side.

Five minutes before the halftime whistle, Rising FC fans’ worst nightmare became a reality. Forbes was in acres of space after Dia’s gamble to intercept the ball, allowing the former PRFC man to cut in on his preferred left foot and hit a screamer into the top corner.

But as the saying goes, teams are most susceptible to conceding immediately after scoring. Rising FC proved that to be true by equalizing once again just three minutes later. To add to Flemmings’ dream debut, the Jamaican was able to find Adam Jahn at the back post for an easy finish.

The second half was the end-to-end play that the USL is known for.

Forbes continued to be dangerous for San Antonio, including setting up Guzman for what should’ve been a goal.

Asante and Flemmings continued to push up the wings with their pace and technical ability, creating an ample amount service into the box.

In the 80th minute, Jahn was able to get a flick on the ball at the near post for a brilliant finish, but unfortunately for Phoenix, it was off a San Antonio corner and resulted in an own goal.

Rising FC goalkeeper Carl Woszczynski showed why he led the Western Conference in clean sheets last season. Woszczynski had two big saves in the second half from point blank range, including Forbes’ near post attempt in the dying moments of the match that would’ve secured all three points for SAFC.

Flemmings dream debut of one goal and one assist inside the opening 45 minutes of his Rising FC career came to an end as Jamaican and former SAFC forward Jason Johnson came on for Flemmings in the 84th minute. In the dying moments of the match, Johnson was able to head home a cross from fellow countryman Kevon Lambert to bring the game to its final scoreline of 3-3.

Phoenix also managed to accumulate five yellow cards. The team finished tied for the conference lead in red cards last season.

It would have been harsh if Rising FC came home from San Antonio with no points. PRFC went down a goal three separate times over the course of the match, one of which was an own goal. San Antonio FC may feel robbed for having dropped two points at home in stoppage time, but both teams deserved to come away from Week 1 with at least one point.

Phoenix Rising FC’s next match will be its home opener as the team hosts New Mexico United on Saturday, March 16 with a kickoff time of 7:30 p.m.