Phoenix Rising sets numerous records in 10th consecutive win
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — To say it was a record-breaking performance on Friday night wouldn’t do Phoenix Rising FC a justice.
The club defeated Austin Bold FC 6-0 in front of a Casino Arizona Field record crowd of 7,387 to extend its winning streak to 10 matches, tying now-MLS side FC Cincinnati’s record set last season.
There’s something about $1 beer night, as the club is now 12-0-0 on said nights, and the record-breaking attendance is the team’s 13th consecutive sellout dating back to last season including the playoffs. In those 13 matches, PRFC is unbeaten and has come away with three points in each of the last seven.
Rising’s six goals on the night is a team record for the most in a single match. That probably has to do with manager Rick Schantz starting Junior Flemmings, reuniting AJF in the starting XI, the league’s deadliest attacking trio.
AJF’s 33 goals account for nearly two-thirds of Phoenix’s league-leading 52 goals (63%) and +35 goal differential.
Captain Solomon Asante had a brace, bringing his league-leading tally to 14 on the year. He also had an assist, his 11th of the season, which also tops USL Championship. Adam Jahn picked up his 11th goal on the campaign, placing him tied for third in the league. Flemmings may not have had a goal, but his two assists on the night bring him to seven on the season (tied for second in USL Championship).
But what may get lost amongst the offensive insanity is the club’s impeccable defense. Goalkeeper Zac Lubin and Co. picked up their 10th clean sheet of the year on Friday night (both league-bests).
“We have guys that want to work, that want clean sheets,” Lubin said of the club’s defense. “We’re not just going after wins, but we want to get clean sheets. It was a tough game in the first half. They had chances and if we don’t get that done, I don’t know if we score six. It’s a different game.
“The line in front of me blocked shots and made it difficult as well, so just an overall great team performance and that allows the guys up front to do their job.”
Rising took an early lead inside 20 minutes, a regularity from the club this season. Right back Mustapha Dumbuya found captain Asante at the edge of the box in acres of space. The captain was then able to turn and fire it into the side netting to give his side a 1-0 lead.
Unfortunately for Dumbuya, his night was shortlived, as he picked up a knock while clearing the ball off the line that ultimately led to Austin Ledbetter being substituted in for him.
Phoenix doubled its advantage early on in the second half as well. In the 54th minute, Flemmings played a ball for defensive midfielder James Musa, who was able to take a touch with his head and set himself up for a half-volley screamer, bringing the scoreline to 2-0 in PRFC’s favor.
“[Asante] is top of the scoring charts,” Musa said of the team’s attacking prowess.
“We have Adam [Jahn] right behind him, but now the goals are getting shared around. There are other guys popping up with goals and that’s great to see because we can’t rely on [AJF] all year.”
Just four minutes later, before the smoke from the previous goal’s flares had exited the pitch, Rising put a chokehold on the game at 3-0. Build-up play from the back ended with another Asante goal that was assisted by Flemmings.
In the 66th minute, Phoenix put the game beyond any doubt at 4-0. Jose Aguinaga was able to force a turnover in Austin Bold’s side of the field, resulting in a counterattack for Rising that ended with a Jahn tap-in on a rebound following a save from the Bold FC goalkeeper.
The third time must be the charm for Jon Bakero, as it took until the Spaniard’s third free kick of the match to get his goal. He won’t mind, though, as his technique was sublime, putting the ball under the wall and into the back of the net to give his side a whopping 5-0 lead. And because Asante rolled the ball ever so slightly for Bakero, the Ghanaian picked up the assist.
Substitute Joey Calistri would get in on the goalscoring festivities in the final quarter of an hour. Amadou Dia’s corner was played back across the face of goal by Joey Farrell and headed home by Calistri, bringing the match to its final scoreline of 6-0.
For the time being, Phoenix Rising has the most points in USL Championship (41), one more than Eastern Conference leader Tampa Bay, and the most points possible of any club in the league.
Bottom line — PRFC controls its own destiny of winning the regular-season title which would guarantee that the team would host every playoff game, something that motivates the club after having to travel to Louisville for last year’s Final.
“That’s been the goal from the beginning of the season,” Lubin said.
“We know we need to be in first. Every game counts. Every point matters and there aren’t any games taken for granted because we know we want to win the Supporters’ Shield but more importantly, we want to host the Final. That’s been the ultimate goal. That’s the first one.”
Phoenix Rising will go for the all-time USL Championship record of 11 straight wins July 27 in an away matchup with 16th-place Tulsa Roughnecks FC, who Rising coincidentally beat 5-0 on $1 beer night June 7.
“I can assure you we’ll be flying,” Musa said of the record. “We’ll be going out there and we’re going for glory. We’re going for blood.”
Kickoff is set for 5:30 p.m. and will be audio-streamed on ArizonaSports.com.