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Phoenix Rising FC continues to extend multitude of USL-record win streaks

Soloman Asante. (Aaron Blau/FirebirdSoccer.net)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — All streaks must come to an end, right?

While that may statistically be true, it wasn’t the case on Friday night.

Phoenix Rising FC defeated Sacramento Republic FC 2-1 in front of a crowd of 7,403, the 16th consecutive sellout at Casino Arizona Field.

The victory extends the club’s multitude of streaks: 14 consecutive wins on $1 beer night, 15 straight wins in league play (USL record) and 16-game unbeaten streak at home.

Coming into the match, both national and local pundits were predicting this would be the match Phoenix would lose.

Those predictions looked to be becoming true, as Rising found itself down in the opening two minutes of the match by allowing yet another cheap goal on a back pass. It looked as if this would be a true test for the club.

But for the third consecutive time, Phoenix responded within five minutes of conceding, proving why it has the best attack in USL Championship.

“It was a battle,” Rising manager Rick Schantz said.

“I thought [Sacramento] had an interesting game plan — kind of press, not really, but we lost our composure. Great response after we gave up an early goal. Kind of stuck to our gameplan. We still weren’t as sharp as we wanted to be. … I think we got frantic there at the end.

“The [media] was saying this is the game we’re going to lose, the streak would end. I told the guys at halftime not tonight. I’m proud of them. They showed a lot of heart tonight.”

But Phoenix would go on to dominate the game after the early goal. It was almost as if the wind was taken out of the sails of Sacramento, who started the game with a more aggressive, attacking style, but then proceeded to be more defensive once conceding the equalizer.

“I think those guys were pretty gassed tonight and they struggled a little bit with our ball movement,” Schantz said.

“They looked to get us on transition. I wasn’t overly worried about them getting opportunities. It really was how were we going to get ours. I’ll take my chances if teams want to play like that and defend all the time. We’ll just keep attacking their goal.”

Before the last of the fans had even taken their seats, Sacramento was up 1-0 less than two minutes into the match. Phoenix Rising defender Joey Farrell attempted to head the ball back to goalkeeper Zac Lubin, but there wasn’t enough power on it to prevent Sac’s Cameron Iwasa from heading it over Lubin and into the back of the net. For the third time in four games, Rising has given up a cheap goal on a bad back pass (Los Dos and El Paso).

“They played a ball, skied it up in the air,” Farrell said of his blunder.

“I kind of lost it in the lights and all I heard was ‘Keeper, keeper, keeper.’ I figured to head it back but it was just a miscommunication.

“I’m thankful that our team is as resilient as we are and we bounced back within four minutes, so that’s really a mindset of champions — being able to face adversity and come back with it immediately and not fault anyone at any second.”

But Phoenix was able to equalize five minutes later, just as it did twice last week against Reno. Rising forward Junior Flemmings had a go from the corner of the box that was deflected by Sacramento’s Juan Barahona, resulting in an own goal to bring the game level at 1-1 just seven minutes into the match.

“Everyone wants to be the team that [ends Rising’s streak], so they’re going to come out firing,” Flemmings said of the team’s quick response.

“We knew that, so we knew that we had to keep a good team spirit and we just have to be in the game because we know the attacking power that we got. Any given day we can score a ton of goals. So when they scored, we weren’t worried at all to be honest because we knew we were going to score some goals.”

Phoenix nearly went the entire first half with only one shot on target. But just before the halftime whistle, Farrell made up for his early blunder with a goal of his own that was inadvertently assisted by captain Solomon Asante. The assist is his 12th on the campaign, which tops all of USL and is just four behind the single-season record of 16.

“I was just trying to cause as much traffic in front of the net as I could,” Farrell said.

“I saw Solo [Asante] lining up to shoot it and I got in front of the goalie and it just deflected off me and in. … That was all Solo’s doing.”

Rising continues to prove its the cream of the crop in USL. Phoenix has a six-point lead over the next-best team in the league with a game in hand and a 12-point lead over both second-place Reno and Fresno in the Western Conference standings.

The club will leave Monday for a two-game road trip away to Tacoma Defiance and Colorado Springs in what may be the team’s toughest test in terms of extending the win streak due to having to play three matches in eight days.

But Schantz will expect to capture all six points against two of the three bottom-barrel teams in the West as his side continue to push for the Supporters’ Shield that would guarantee home-field advantage in the playoffs.

Phoenix Rising will play the first match of its two-game road trip on Tuesday away to Tacoma Defiance.

Kickoff is set for 7:00 p.m. and will be audio-streamed on ArizonaSports.com.

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