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Phoenix Rising FC thrashes LA Galaxy II as sports return in Arizona

Phoenix Rising FC captain and forward Solomon Asante. (Arizona Sports/Ashley Orellana)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — For the first time in 126 days, Phoenix Rising FC returned to the pitch for a competitive match at Casino Arizona Field.

PRFC played host to its fellow Group B opponents LA Galaxy II in what was the first professional sports game back in the state of Arizona since the COVID-19 pandemic put the sports world on pause in March.

But for a team that hadn’t played since March 7 — a 6-1 win over Portland Timbers 2 — Rising picked up right where it left off.

Phoenix thrashed Los Dos by a scoreline of 4-0 thanks to a dominating attacking performance from forwards Junior Flemmings, Solomon Asante and Rufat Dadashov; and midfielder Jon Bakero.

“We’ve been eager to come back and get back — do what we love,” Bakero said.

“Obviously this team has a lot of talent and we wanted to make a statement tonight. This was our first game after four months so obviously we have a lot of things to work on but we’ll take the three points and move on.”

Saturday’s match also marked the first time Rising hasn’t played in front of a sellout crowd after selling out its last 23 consecutive games at Casino Arizona Field. Not to mention the 110-plus degree heat at kickoff.

“To win and get three points feels great. To see the boys play — I get to see them like that every day, but I really miss the fans,” manager Rick Schantz said.

“It was hard. It’s hot. Today was the hottest temperature we’ve ever played in. It took the guys a while to get going I think and that’s where I could see that we missed the energy of the crowd.”

Rising was able to expose the space on the flanks in the final third with Flemmings and Asante, which led to both wingers either cutting in and dribbling or whipping a ball into the box.

Flemmings opened the scoring just 10 minutes into the match, as the Jamaican was able to get on the end of an Asante cross to give PRFC a 1-0 lead.

Bakero was able to double Rising’s advantage to 2-0 in the 40th minute after converting from the spot — a shot that captain Asante would normally take.

“We talk about it and we all practice and in this case I felt confident to take it and I appreciate the captain for giving me the confidence and being able to help the team,” Bakero said of taking the penalty instead of Asante.

“We talked about it before the game and during the game I had the confidence and I’ve been feeling good so I just wanted to take it and help the team.”

With only seconds remaining in the first half, Asante was able to pounce on a blunder from the Los Dos defense and catch the keeper out to give PRFC a 3-0 halftime lead.

Asante also managed to get his brace in the 81st minute after beating the Los Dos goalkeeper at his near post.

The 2019 MVP now has three goals and three assists in less than four halves of football.

Phoenix Rising (6 points) continues to sit in 2nd place behind San Diego Loyal SC (7 points) in Group B. However, San Diego has also played one more game than PRFC.

Rising returns to action on Thursday, as the club travels to California to take on Orange County SC.

Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. and will be audio-streamed live on ArizonaSports.com and the new Arizona Sports App.