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Phoenix Rising looks to make USL history away to Tulsa Roughnecks

(Photo courtesy of Phoenix Rising FC)

Phoenix Rising FC will be going for the USL Championship all-time record for consecutive wins on Saturday night away to Tulsa Roughnecks FC.

A victory would be Phoenix’s 11th in a row and would solidify its position atop the Western Conference standings (41 points).

Rising couldn’t have hand-selected a better opponent to be going against for the record, as 17th-place Tulsa is coming off of a 3-1 home loss to LA Galaxy II on Wednesday in which it actually led only three minutes into the match via a Rodrigo da Costa goal. But the club would squander that early lead, and a Matt Rogers straight red means the defender won’t be available for Saturday night’s contest that his side only has three days to prepare for.

Roughnecks FC has now lost seven of its last eight games, being outscored 24-5 including being shutout five times for an average losing scoreline of 3.0-0.63 in that span. Tulsa also hasn’t won a match in over three months — a 2-0 home win over Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC on April 24.

Expect Saturday night’s match to be a physical one, at least for Phoenix Rising, as Roughnecks lead the Championship in fouls at 329 (16.45 per game) compared to PRFC’s 27th-ranked 224 fouls (11.79 per match).

Tulsa has only been able to muster 27 goals on the 2019 campaign (tied for the fifth-fewest in the Western Conference) while conceding 42 (tied for the fifth-most in USL).

Compare that to Phoenix’s deadly attacking trio of Solomon Asante, Adam Jahn and Junior Flemmings (AJF), who have combined for 33 of the club’s league-leading 52 goals this season (63%). Of USL Championship’s 36 clubs, only seven, not including PRFC, have scored more than AJF. The attacking trio has also missed a combined eight of the team’s 19 games this year.

Roughnecks FC is led by Luca Lobo and da Costa, who are tied for the team-lead in goals (seven), with the latter also leading the team with seven assists (tied for second in the league). da Costa is also responsible for his side’s last three goals.

Rising is coming off of a 6-0 thrashing of Austin Bold FC at the weekend to tie now-MLS side FC Cincinnati’s record of 10 straight wins set last year, outscoring its opponents 37-6 for an average winning scoreline of 3.70-0.60 over the course of the winning streak.

The victory came on $1 beer night, extending the club’s record to a perfect 12-0-0 on said nights. AJF combined for three goals and three assists, awarding Asante and Flemmings to Week 20’s Team of the Week.

Coincidentally, the last time Phoenix faced off against Tulsa also came on $1 beer night on June 7, a 5-0 Rising win that saw AJF combine for four goals and three assists including Jahn’s Week 14 Goal of the Week and possible Goal of the Year nominee.

Unfortunately for PRFC, right back Mustapha Dumbuya went down with a lower-body injury while clearing the ball off the line. However, he did participate in training earlier this week, so it remains unknown if the Sierra Leonean will be in manager Rick Schantz’s starting XI on Saturday. If he is unable to go, expect to see Austin Ledbetter get the start, as the 24-year-old came in for Dumbuya following the first-half injury.

The winning streak isn’t the only record Phoenix Rising is on pace for, though.

This season is turning out to not only be the club’s best to date, but it could possibly end up as the greatest in the history of the Championship.

As a team, Rising’s 52 goals and +35 goal differential through 19 matches this year are both league-bests, and only trail Reno 1868 FC’s USL-record 75 goals and New York Red Bulls II’s USL-record +40 goal differential set in 2017 and 2016, respectively.

Defensively, Phoenix is attempting to break the record of 17 clean sheets in a single season that both PRFC and Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC achieved last year. Rising currently sits tied with Indy Eleven for the league lead at 10 apiece.

On an individual basis, Asante is on pace to be the league MVP with perhaps the best season by a single player in USL Championship history. The Ghanaian currently leads the league in both goals (14) and assists (11). This year, he became the fastest player to reach the double-digit goal and assist mark in league history and trails Cameron Lancaster’s and Emmanuel Ledesmathe’s single-season records of 25 goals and 16 assists, respectively, both of which were set last season.

With 15 games to go, goalkeeper Zac Lubin leads the Championship in clean sheets (10) and goals against average (0.56) on the 2019 campaign, only five back of Maxime Crepea’s 15 shutouts in 2018 and Brandon Miller’s 0.54 goals against average in 2015.

To go along with Asante’s accolades, Jahn’s 11 goals and Flemmings’ seven assists are tied for fourth and second in the league, respectively, giving the club two top-five goal scorers and assist men. Phoenix’s No. 9 has now scored or assisted in 10 of his last 11 matches.

Rising will be going for a club-record fifth consecutive road win along with the record-breaking 11th straight victory in Tulsa on Saturday night.

The team has a tremendous opportunity to extend its lead in the Western Conference standings. Following Reno’s 4-1 loss away to Orange County SC on Wednesday, a PRFC victory on Saturday can make it a six-point advantage over second-place Reno (38 points), who will have played two more games than Rising after this weekend.

Kickoff is set for 5:30 p.m. and will be audio-streamed on ArizonaSports.com.

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