Rising powers past Tulsa to extend winning streak, moves to 2nd in west
SCOTTSDALE — If there was any question of Phoenix Rising FC being rusty coming off a bye week, it was answered in the opening half hour of Friday night’s match.
Rising FC convincingly defeated Tulsa Roughnecks FC 5-0 in front of a 10th consecutive sellout crowd at Casino Arizona Field, extending the club’s current winning streak to four and its unbeaten streak at home to nine dating back to last year.
The win puts PRFC in second place in the Western Conference standings, just two points behind first-place New Mexico United with a game in hand.
It was without a doubt Rising’s best performance of the 2019 season.
Phoenix was all over Tulsa from the get-go, carving through the Roughnecks’ defense with sublime one-two touch passing, leading to a total of 18 shots, 12 of which were on target.
“I thought we were good,” Rising manager Rick Schantz said. “The first half was really good.
“We’ve been working a lot on the midfield three and the front three and I think we gave Tulsa a lot of trouble and they couldn’t really play out of the back.”
Rising’s attacking trio of Solomon Asante, Adam Jahn and Junior Flemmings started the goal fest by scoring a goal apiece in the first half, with Flemmings notching his brace midway through the second half.
The trio has now accounted for 22 of the club’s 31 goals on the year, with Jahn and Flemmings having eight goals apiece (tied for the third-most in USL Championship).
“It starts in training,” Flemmings said. “We understand each other. We know what each other are going to do and all that, so in the game it just comes naturally.”
Phoenix’s 31 goals this season are tied for the most in USL Championship, while the club’s plus 17 goal differential is the best in the entire league. The team is also tied for the most wins in the Western Conference, a valuable asset as the league’s first tiebreaker is total wins.
AJF didn’t just score on Friday night, they also provided assists on four of the team’s five goals. Jahn and Asante assisted Flemmings on his first and second goal of the match, respectively.
PRFC’s captain also assisted Andrew Wheeler on his first goal of the season just minutes after coming on for Jose Aguinaga. The Ghanaian now has seven assists on the 2019 campaign, placing him tied for the top spot in USL Championship.
And while Flemmings won’t get an assist on the stat sheet, he drew the penalty that Asante put in the back of the net just before halftime.
While Phoenix Rising’s five goals set a club-record for the most goals scored in one game at Casino Arizona Field, the defense also recorded a clean sheet, both the team’s and goalkeeper Zac Lubin’s sixth on the year (tied for second in USL Championship).
Roughnecks FC was only able to muster three shots on target, just over half the amount of goals scored by Rising on the night.
It only took 13 minutes for Phoenix to take the lead on an absolute wonder-goal on the volley from Jahn off a James Musa longball from beyond the center circle to give his side an early 1-0 lead.
“Luckily it hung up in the wind and I was able to get to it and the goalie was caught in no man’s land,” Jahn said. “I was able to make good contact with it and pop it right over.”
Flemmings got his first goal of the match just 12 minutes later after two one-touch passes set up Jahn to play a ball across the face of goal where the Jamaican was waiting for the easy tap-in to double Rising’s lead.
Asante joined his AJF teammates on the scoresheet after Flemmings drew a penalty that was put away by the Ghanaian, giving his side a commanding 3-0 lead going into halftime.
Flemmings got his brace in the 65th minute after receiving a diagonal ball from Asante that he placed between the Tulsa keeper’s legs, putting the game to bed at 4-0.
Rising FC put the match beyond any doubt by notching a fifth and final goal by Wheeler, the only non-AJF member to get on the scoresheet Friday night.
It was a good send-off for Flemmings as he will be leaving the squad for about a month to represent Jamaica in the upcoming Gold Cup alongside Rising teammate Kevon Lambert.
“I knew I had to come out here before I go away and put in a great shift,” Flemmings said.
“We were on a great run so I just wanted to continue that. I had to come out here and do what I had to do. It’s an honor to be called up by your country, but I could not want to do it on a better stage than this big stage: the biggest tournament in North America.
“So I just have to go there and show what I have. We went to back-to-back Finals in two previous Gold Cups. We’re going to have a lot of targets on our back but we just have to work hard and double up our efforts.”
Phoenix is now 11-0-0 all-time on $1 beer night.
Rising returns to action on June 15 to host Western Conference rival Orange County SC at Casino Arizona Field.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. and the match can be audio streamed on ArizonaSports.com.