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Rising win 5th consecutive match, propel to 1st in Western Conference

(Photo courtesy of Savannah Jacobson)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Phoenix Rising FC won its fifth consecutive match in a 3-0 victory over Orange County SC on Saturday night.

The victory also puts PRFC tied atop the Western Conference standings, but with goal difference being the second tiebreaker after total wins, Rising’s USL Championship best +20 goal differential propels the club to first place.

“It’s where we’re supposed to be,” Rising manager Rick Schantz said. “These guys are a very good, talented bunch. Everybody knew at the beginning of the year that it’s my job to get them to become a team. We’re not even halfway through the season yet. We have a long way to go.

“Going into tonight [I told the team] they have a chance to be at the top of the table. … Let’s not settle to be second place, let’s go get it.”

It was another dominant performance from Phoenix, as the club had a 2-0 lead only 17 minutes into the match, only to be followed with a third goal five minutes into the second half, putting a chokehold on OCSC.

Rising is now unbeaten in 10 consecutive home matches dating back to last year and playoff games.

Saturday night’s match was also the first of Phoenix’s 2019 campaign in which forward Junior Flemmings did not step onto the pitch, as both he and Kevon Lambert are representing Jamaica in the Gold Cup until July.

Rising forward Joey Calistri got the start in Flemmings’ absence and took after the Jamaican’s lead, scoring his first goal of the season.

Phoenix’s defense and goalkeeper Zac Lubin didn’t miss a beat either, capturing his seventh clean sheet of the season (tied for second in USL Championship), including a one-on-one save early in the first half. The club has not allowed a goal in eight consecutive games in June.

Rising got on the board early, but with a little help from OC. Phoenix defender Mustapha Dumbuya whipped a cross into the box, but OCSC defender Kevin Alston’s missed clearance found its way into the back of the net for an own goal to put PRFC ahead, 1-0.

“You’re most vulnerable to concede immediately after conceding” is the old saying.

Phoenix Rising proved that to be true just 11 minutes later as captain Solomon Asante played a ball across the box that was flicked on by Adam Jahn and put home by Calistri, doubling Phoenix’s lead.

“It’s always good to get the first one,” Calistri said. “Tonight it was a team effort and it was great to get a result as a team and more importantly get a shutout again.”

Rising took a firm hold on the game five minutes into the second half on another wonder-volley from distance, almost identical to Jahn’s Week 14 Goal of the Week, giving PRFC a commanding 3-0 lead.

“Before I got the ball, I was looking at the goalkeeper,” Asante said. “I didn’t think of anything. I just decided to go for goal.”

Phoenix Rising has a quick turnaround with a game on Tuesday away to Reno 1868 FC, followed by another road contest four days later at OKC Energy FC.

The three games in eight days will test the depth of Schantz’s squad. And with both the absences and injuries to multiple key players, expect to see some makeshift positional changes in order to fill those voids.

Rising will return to action on Tuesday away to Reno.

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

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