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Rising get first clean sheet of 2019 but draw fourth straight match

(Twitter Photo/@jwa1994)

Phoenix Rising FC drew its fourth consecutive match to Fresno FC on Saturday night at Casino Arizona Field.

The 0-0 stalemate was played in front of 6,433 fans, a sixth consecutive sellout.

PRFC manager Rick Schantz made four changes to his Week 4 starting XI against Colorado Switchbacks FC.

Goalkeeper Zac Lubin, midfielders Kevon Lambert and Collin Fernandez, and forward Junior Flemmings started in place of Carl Woszczynski, Javi Perez, James Musa and Jason Johnson, respectively.

“Collin this week was unbelievable,” Schantz said.

“We had a good talk. He hasn’t been playing and I explained why. In training, he outworked everybody and he earned the job. Fair play to Collin, I was really happy for him. I pick the team each week based on how they perform in training, not just how they did in the games.”

However, the installment of Lambert and Flemmings has been a staple of Schantz’s starting lineup, as the Jamaican duo have started in all but one match this season.

Woszczynski’s absence from the starting XI came as a surprise, as the goalkeeper was coming off of a Week 4 Save of the Week performance that crowned him USL Championship’s all-time leader in saves (388).

Quantity of chances was not the problem for PRFC, as the team’s 63.6 percent of possession resulted into 23 shots and 11 corners.

It was Rising FC’s quality of attack that prevented them from scoring. Phoenix was on the front foot for the latter of the first half, but poor touches from Rising attackers before the final ball continued to plague them.

“Some of the guys I thought weren’t crisp in the final third again, but defensively they were very organized,” Schantz said.

“Worked very, very well on the long balls. We had no space for them in the midfield and that’s been the focus this week. We got the shutout and just couldn’t get the goal.”

Jon Bakero had Rising’s best two chances in the first half, as Solomon Asante continued to find Bakero following the switch of play, but both the Toronto FC loanee’s shots went wide.

The match turned just before the half when Fresno midfielder Seth Moses received his second yellow and was sent off, leaving the Foxes to play down a man for the remainder of the game. But PRFC wasn’t able to take advantage of the extra man, as Fresno was still able to maintain over 45 percent of possession in the second half.

Phoenix Rising continued to attack in the second half, as Schantz brought on the likes of super-sub Jason Johnson, Joey Calistri and Ben Spencer, whom are all forwards.

Johnson had the best chance of the second half when he saw his 35-yard belter hit the crossbar.

It was Phoenix’s best defensive performance of the 2019 campaign. For the first time this season, the same back four (Blackmon, Joey Farrell, A.J. Cochran and Amadou Dia) played in back-to-back weeks.

PRFC only allowed four shots and one corner on its way to its first clean sheet of the season.

Lubin was called into action early, but proved he was up for the task in his season debut.

“I told Zac he needed to step up and maybe the change would do something for us defensively and I thought Zac was fantastic tonight,” Schantz said.

“It’s coming. It’s just slow, really slow. We got a shutout. The offense wasn’t really sharp tonight. Again, we’re still undefeated.”

Phoenix Rising FC’s next match is away at El Paso Locomotive on April 13 with a 6:30 p.m. kickoff.

The match can be viewed on The CW or streamed on ArizonaSports.com.

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