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Rising’s unbeaten season comes to an end with 1-0 defeat to Austin Bold

Junior Flemmings (left), Jose Aguinaga (center) and Solomon Asante (right). (Courtesy of Phoenix Rising FC)

Phoenix Rising FC payed its second match in five days Wednesday as the club took on USL Championship debutant Austin Bold FC.

PRFC fell 1-0 to Bold FC, Phoenix’s first loss on the 2019 campaign.

Rising manager Rick Schantz made six changes to his starting XI from Saturday’s 2-0 win over El Paso Locomotive FC. Notable omissions included forward Junior Flemmings, midfielders Kevon Lambert and Colin Fernandez, and defender Amadou Dia, who had played every minute of the 2019 season coming into Wednesday’s contest.

Austin dominated the first 20 minutes of the match, as the club was outshooting Rising FC 4-to-0 with Bold FC’s possession percentage being as high as 63% at one point.

Phoenix settled in eventually, as the team didn’t allow a shot for the rest of the first half while also firing away 10 shots with its 63% first half possession.

Former USL Championship goalkeeper of the year Diego Restrepo made three incredible saves that will surely lead to yet another Save of the Week nominee against Phoenix Rising, a trend that has seen numerous PRFC goal-destined shots denied.

Rising FC displayed excellent technical ability to end the first half that even included a dangerous attacking pass from center back A.J. Cochran, who had an assist away to El Paso at the weekend.

Austin Bold opened the second half with a goal in the 52nd minute. A Phoenix turnover in the midfield led to Sonny Guadarrama’s curling effort that was perfectly placed into the top corner, leaving Rising goalkeeper Zac Lubin no chance.

Although Phoenix outshot Austin 18-to-15 and doubled Bold FC’s shots on target 6-to-3 while out-possessing the USL Championship newcomer with 60% possession, Rising FC was unable to beat Restrepo.

PRFC striker Ben Spencer made his first start of the 2019 season Wednesday night following his first goal in a Rising FC kit last match against Locomotive FC. Unfortunately for the 6-foot-5 forward, he was unable to really get into the match and have the impact that most would’ve expected, as Bold FC have proven to be vulnerable from the wings, especially on crosses and set pieces.

As the second half went on, Schantz elected to deploy an all-out attack by bringing on Flemmings, Devin Vega and Joey Calistri for Javi Perez, Jose Aguinaga and Cochran, respectively. This caused Phoenix’s formation to change to a 4-1-4-1, moving Asante in the middle with Vega, while Flemmings and Johnson patrolled the wings with Spencer at the head of the attack.

But it was the Restrepo show at Bold Stadium Wednesday night, as the Austin Bold goalkeeper continued to put on a clinic, keeping every Rising attack out of his net.

In the dying minutes of the match, the equalizer looked to be destined for the back of the net, but defender Lamar Batista’s header off a corner was headed off the line by a Bold FC defender, keeping the Austin lead at 1-0.

Austin Bold FC could’ve broken the score open, too, as the club hit the post twice after catching Phoenix on the counterattack.

It is a harsh result for Rising FC, as the team played well enough to deserve at least a point — a disappointing end to the two-game Texas road trip.

Phoenix Rising FC returns home Saturday as the club host Seattle Sounders 2 at Casino Arizona Field.

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