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Phoenix Rising continues to inch toward Supporters’ Shield

(Savannah Jacobson/Vannaroseimage)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Lucky No. 13.

Phoenix Rising FC defeated El Paso Locomotive FC by a score of 2-1 on Saturday night in front of a crowd of 6,520, the club’s 14th consecutive sellout at Casino Arizona Field.

The win is the club’s 13th in a row, extending its own USL Championship record, and also the 14th consecutive match in which Phoenix hasn’t lost at home dating back to last season’s playoff run.

It was a weird game to say the least.

Rising was on the front foot in the early stages, but seemed to take its foot off the gas pedal after scoring the game’s opening goal, allowing a sloppy turnover to result in the equalizer.

“After we scored the goal, I think the guys kind of felt the job was done,” manager Rick Schantz said.

“That’s one of our problems. We know we can score when things are going well and I think they took their foot off the gas and we got punished. We gave up a goal on our mistake.”

Unfortunately, the referee also had a big impact on the game. After a blatant missed handball by El Paso, multiple hard fouls turned the game into a chippy one, at least in the first half.

“From the beginning, it got a little out of control,” Rising goalkeeper Zac Lubin said of the officiating. “I think there were a couple times we could’ve gotten a penalty in the first half and it wasn’t given. They were starting to put some tackles in. It started to get very physical.

“I think he got control of the game with the yellows, but then he kind of let it go in the second half. … We had to battle through that. We’re not always going to get calls [and refs] go our way so we have to focus on what we want to do and play our game.”

After 40 minutes without a card — including a collision between El Paso’s Edson Partida and Lubin — five cards were given out in as many minutes to end the opening frame.

“[It was a] through ball, I had it,” Lubin said.

“He wasn’t stopping, so I’m going to protect myself. He ran into me. No big deal. I wish I wouldn’t have dropped the ball, but cleared it out anyway. I’m not going to let someone come into my box and run me down.”

Of the five, only one was given to a Phoenix Rising player (Adam Jahn), who now leads the team with five on the year. Somewhat of an oddity as the club’s main striker.

The most influential card was a red for El Paso’s James Kiffe after elbowing Phoenix captain Solomon Asante in the face, leaving Locomotive to play the remainder of the match a man down.

Rising took advantage of the extra man, as it allowed the team to dominate the second half because of El Paso’s low block tactic — an all-out defensive tactic that limits any and all space in the final third in an effort to squeak out with a draw or even catch Phoenix on the counter.

“It’s harder when the other team has 10 [players],” Schantz said. “We have spare players that aren’t used to shape and system, so when [El Paso] is in two lines of four and the nine is playing like a six, we have like five guys outside of that box.

“[Jon] Bakero came out too wide. So the switch with [James] Musa bringing off [Jose] Aguinaga I thought was very helpful because Musa likes to dictate the play from the middle and it allowed Solo [Asante] to stay wide and I think that we served the ball in and we started to be a little more dangerous.”

Locomotive really never had many attacking chances in the second half, including nearly no completed passes in Rising’s final third.

In all, the better team won on the night. Rising outshot El Paso 20-5 and outpassed a team that leads the league in total passes with over 11,000 on the 2019 campaign.

Prior to the match, a moment of silence was followed by a presentation of a tifo from both sides in remembrance of those that lost their lives in the El Paso shooting last Saturday.

“Top to bottom it’s always class here,” Schantz said of Phoenix Rising FC as an organization after the presentation.

“It was awesome. I’m deeply saddened and prayed for those that lost loved ones. It’s devastating and I know those guys were playing with heavy hearts tonight. I told the guys after the game ‘we have to think about what they’re going through and understand it could happen anywhere.'”

In the early stages of the match, a controversial no-call was made after an El Paso defender appeared to hit the ball with his hand, almost like a volleyball player would. There is no VAR in USL Championship, but you can make the call for yourself:

Phoenix took an early lead, somewhat of a regularity at home this season. In the 21st minute, Jose Aguinaga found himself at the top of the box and took the left-footed strike to score his first goal of the season and give his side a 1-0 lead.

The lead would be short-lived, however, as Partida would equalize after Rising left back Amadou Dia gave the ball away in the back, much like the leadup to LA’s pen in last week’s match.

With less than 20 minutes left to go, the referee pointed to the spot after Jahn was brought down in the box from behind. Asante would step up to the spot and put it away to give his side a late 2-1 lead.

“That last penalty was deserved,” Lubin said of the penalty. “He ran through [Adam Jahn’s] back.”

Rising would hold on to take all three points.

Phoenix continues to sit atop the league in points (50), wins (15), goals scored (58) and goal difference (38) in the club’s quest for the Supporters’ Shield.

Rising returns to action on Friday to host second-place Reno 1868 FC on the first of back-to-back $1 beer nights.

With Phoenix having a six-point lead and two games in hand over Reno, Rising has a tremendous opportunity to distance itself from the team that’s chasing after the Western Conference’s No. 1 spot.

PRFC beat Reno 3-0 on the road when the two clubs met earlier this season.

Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. and will be audio-streamed on


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