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Phoenix Rising pull three points out of the hat for 18th straight win

Kevon Lambert. (Twitter photo/@PHXRisingFC)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Magicians are the masters of deception.

Phoenix Rising FC, and more specifically captain Solomon Asante, did just that on Saturday night.

After a lackluster performance from Phoenix, Asante was able to pull all three points out of the proverbial magician’s hat by hitting a free kick in the 87th minute to edge out San Antonio FC by a scoreline of 1-0, extending Rising’s USL-record winning streak to 18.

“Key players come up at key moments,” Phoenix Rising manager Rick Schantz said.

“I don’t think Solo was great tonight, but unbelievable free kick. … That’s what you expect from these guys is that at the most important moments to be very good.”

San Antonio attacked early and often, accumulating a total of 25 shots, five of which were on target and included a volley from the top of the box that was denied by the woodwork.

“In the first half, we weren’t very good,” Schantz said.

“I thought we didn’t play with a sense of urgency. We had talked about their system, kind of a 3-5-2 or a 3-6-1. When we won the ball, we were supposed to transition much quicker and I think that what we were doing is we’d win it and we felt confident in possession, so we didn’t play with any urgency in the first half.

“They’re a hard team to press because they have so many guys in the middle of the field and we created some opportunities. … What a good gameplan by San Antonio. I have to give them a lot of credit, but we’re at home and we have a 12th man and it really helps.”

Schantz made one change from his starting XI from last week’s 3-0 win over Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC.

Forward Joey Calistri started in place of Junior Flemmings, who was away on international duty with the Jamaican national team. The squad was also without normal starting right back Mustapha Dumbuya and loanee Peter-Lee Vassell, who are both with their national teams as well.

Flemmings’ absence was felt immensely, as Calistri wasn’t able to provide much from the left wing, causing his 69th-minute substitution. Taking his place was forward Jason Johnson in what was his first match since suffering a lower-body injury back in April. Johnson received a warm welcome from the fans as he came onto the pitch.

But the biggest blow of the night came just before the halftime whistle. Midfielder Jon Bakero was forced to leave the match after noticeably limping from a lower-body injury.

“Right now it’s just a precaution,” Schantz said. “We have him in a brace. Felt like his knee was a little sore on the medial side. He’ll have a scan tomorrow.”

The clean sheet is the 13th on the year for Rising goalkeeper Zac Lubin. Lucky No. 13 breaks the club’s single-season record for clean sheets which was previously held by fellow teammate Carl Woszczynski. Lubin now trails USL’s single-season record of 15 by only two.

Prior to the match, Phoenix clinched a top-four spot and home playoff match due to Austin Bold FC dropping points to Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC on Saturday.

Rising returns to action in its last midweek match of the year on Wednesday away to Las Vegas Lights FC.

Phoenix topped Las Vegas 4-0 in the two side’s last matchup back on May 18 at Casino Arizona Field.

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

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