Unruly fans cause Rising FC match to be abandoned for player safety
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — It wasn’t the ending Phoenix Rising FC wanted on Saturday night. It wasn’t the ending anyone wanted.
With less than 10 minutes remaining and Phoenix leading LA Galaxy II 4-1, the referee called the match due to player safety concerns after objects had been thrown onto the pitch by multiple fans, including one that hit Los Dos’ Augustine Williams.
The match was initially supposed to be delayed for five minutes following a beer can being thrown on the field by a Galaxy II fan from the supporters’ section.
“After a review of the situation, the referees abandoned the match with the score 4-1 in favor of Phoenix Rising,” the club said in a press release.
“Per USL rules, a team that has a three or more goal lead after 70 minutes of play is determined the winner, should the match be suspended for any reason. … Both fans were identified and have been banned from the stadium. In addition, the club will be moving to plastic cups for future games.”
The league also released a similar statement explaining the situation, but it did not say that there would be any disciplinary action for Phoenix.
It was entirely possible that the league could have deducted points from Rising or force the team to play a home match behind closed doors.
Coincidentally, a match between Phoenix Rising (then-Arizona United) and LA Galaxy II in 2014 resulted in a two-point deduction against Arizona United for fielding an ineligible player.
However, prior to the match abandonment, a game was played. Well, for 80-odd minutes or so.
The win officially a marks a historic, unprecedented season for Phoenix Rising.
Rising’s four goals on the night brings its season total to 77, which breaks the USL record for goals scored in a season.
The club also clinched home-field advantage throughout the Western Conference playoffs following Fresno FC’s 3-1 loss to Las Vegas Lights FC on Saturday night.
Rising manager Rick Schantz went back to more of a regular starting XI after rotating most of the squad in Wednesday’s 1-0 win away to Las Vegas Lights FC.
Los Dos came into the game unbeaten (three wins, one draw) since their 3-2 loss to Phoenix on Aug. 3.
Phoenix was able to take an early 1-0 lead in the 10th minute, as captain Solomon Asante converted from the penalty for his 22nd goal of the season. The Ghanaian is now just three behind the USL single-season record of 25.
Rising managed to double its advantage to 2-0 just five minutes later via Junior Flemmings, his 12th of the campaign. The Jamaican danced around multiple Los Dos defenders and was able to slot it just out of the reach of the keeper.
Phoenix cemented its first half dominance just before the halftime whistle. Flemmings was able to notch his brace on a header from an Asante cross to give Rising a commanding 3-0 lead.
Asante’s assist was also his 15th of the 2019 campaign, one less than the USL single-season record of 16.
Los Dos would manage to narrow their deficit to 3-1 in the 76th minute via Kai Koreniuk’s shot that was deflected by Rising defender A.J. Cochran and into the back of the net.
Phoenix would respond immediately, however, as Ben Spencer hit a left-footed half-volley into an empty net following a save from the Galaxy II goalkeeper on an Asante shot.
Rising is now just seven points away from being guaranteed the Supporters’ Shield and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Phoenix returns to action on Saturday away to Fresno. The two sides drew 0-0 in their last matchup on April 6.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. and will be audio-streamed on ArizonaSports.com.