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Phoenix Rising’s 20-game win streak ends in unlikeliest of fashions

Solomon Asante. (Photo courtesy of Phoenix Rising FC).

All good things must come to an end. And Phoenix Rising FC’s illustrious win streak is no exception to that rule.

The club’s 2-1 loss away to Fresno FC on Saturday night marked the conclusion of Phoenix’s 20-game win and unbeaten streak. It was the first time since May 4 that Rising had even dropped points.

But it was the way in which Phoenix’s historical run ended that not even Hollywood could have scripted.

With less than five minutes of the 90 remaining and Rising down 2-1, Solomon Asante would have not one, but two opportunities from the penalty spot to bring Phoenix level and rescue at least a point for his side.

Surely the league’s leading goal scorer would convert at least one of them, right? He is “Captain Solo” after all. You would’ve bet your life on it.

Well, on Saturday night, you would’ve been wrong.

Fresno goalkeeper C.J. Cochran was the hero as he managed to save both of Asante’s penalties to secure his side all three points and its first playoff berth in club history.

“Very proud of the heart our boys showed,” Phoenix Rising manager Rick Schantz tweeted after the game. “Difficult conditions, tough opponent, small and poor field, yet we still play football. It’s been an amazing run and luck wasn’t with us tonight. We learn and improve. Back to work and we move forward.”

It was a back-and-forth affair, as both clubs created chances, combining for 30 shots on the night.

But it was Fresno’s Qudus Lawal that broke the deadlock in the 68th minute after coming on as a substitute just eight minutes prior.

Lawal was able to send A.J. Cochran the wrong way and get off a left-footed strike from just outside the top of the box that whistled past a diving Zac Lubin — who may have been blinded by Mustapha Dumbuya — and into the back of the net.

But as we saw throughout the entirety of the 20-match win streak, Phoenix Rising won’t go down without a fight.

Right on cue, Rising forward Junior Flemmings equalized in the 78th minute after bringing the ball down in the box with his chest and coolly slotting it in for his 14th goal of the 2019 campaign.

The stalemate would be shortlived, however, as Fresno’s Jamie Chavez would convert from the penalty spot just five minutes later to bring the game to its final scoreline of 2-1 in the Foxes’ favor.

Phoenix came into the match just four points away from clinching the Supporters’ Shield and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

The club has four games remaining, but its magic number could decrease if Indy Eleven drop points to Atlanta United 2 on Wednesday or Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC on Saturday.

But because both of Indy’s matches will be played prior to Phoenix’s next game, it’s entirely possible that Rising could be crowned USL’s regular-season champions prior to taking the field again should Indy only muster two points from those two matches.

Phoenix Rising returns to action on Saturday away to eighth-place New Mexico United. The two sides drew 3-3 in their last matchup at Casino Arizona Field on March 16.

New Mexico will be looking to join Fresno as the only USL Championship sides that Phoenix hasn’t beaten this season.

Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m. and will be audio-streamed on ArizonaSports.com.