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Phoenix Rising FC avenges draw to Lights FC with ‘gutsy’ win in Las Vegas

Phoenix Rising FC (Arizona Sports/Ashley Orellana)

Not all wins are made equal (or elegantly) but a win is a win is the old saying.

And that’s exactly what Phoenix Rising FC did on Saturday night in Las Vegas — pick up three points by defeating Lights FC 2-0.

It wasn’t the prettiest of contests on the eye, but PRFC did outshoot Las Vegas 15-13 (6-1 on target). However, Phoenix failed to convert on a lot of clear-cut opportunities that would have put the game away much earlier, something that has seemed to become a reoccurring theme in recent weeks.

The win also marks PRFC and Zac Lubin’s first clean sheet since Aug. 15 and the finale of a four-game road trip, the last three of which all took place in the state of Nevada.

“Great performance from the guys tonight. Now we are back on track and headed home to play in front of our amazing fans next week,” center back A.J. Cochran tweeted after the game.

Phoenix Rising manager Rick Schantz made a few changes to his starting XI from the team’s last two matches.

The manager elected to return to the normal starting attacking trio of Solomon Asante, Rufat Dadashov and Junior Flemmings. However, with left back Owusu-Ansah Kontoh still sidelined due to a groin injury, the manager deployed normally-starting center back Corey Whelan at right back and Darnell King at left back.

“So proud of the guys! That’s the type of gutsy win we needed. They can’t all be pretty, but three points are beautiful,” Schantz tweeted after the match.

In the first half, Las Vegas did a good job clogging up the middle and limiting touches for Dadashov to play Asante and Flemmings in behind. PRFC did have some success whipping crosses in early on from wide areas, but seemed to stray away from that as the opening 45 minutes went on.

In the opening 10 minutes of the second half, though, Phoenix Rising did whip in multiple crosses from out wide positions. One of those crosses ended up hitting the hand of a Las Vegas defender inside the box and awarded PRFC a penalty.

Flemmings would step up to the spot and covert from 12 yards out with a little help from the post to give Phoenix a 1-0 lead in the 53rd minute.

The Jamaican now has 11 goals on the 2020 campaign and has scored in all but two of Phoenix Rising’s 11 matches this season. That goal-scoring tally is also good enough to keep Flemmings atop the scoring charts for the league’s Golden Boot.

In the dying seconds of the game, Dadashov would seal all three points for Rising FC with a goal to bring the match to its final scoreline of 2-0 in PRFC’s favor. Midfielder Jordan Schweitzer intercepted an errant Las Vegas pass at midfield and immediately sent it up to the No. 9’s feet for his ninth goal of the season (second-most in the Western Conference behind Flemmings).

The victory also keeps the club atop the USL Championship Group B standings. And following LA Galaxy II’s 2-1 win over Orange County SC on the night, Phoenix Rising extends its lead to five points.

Despite having played an extra game than Los Dos and OC, Phoenix now controls its own destiny in Group B as Rising FC has the most points possible with 38. The team will also be playing all of its remaining five matches against group opponents, four of which will be at Casino Arizona Field in front of fewer than 1,000 season-ticket members.

PRFC hosts Orange County on Sept. 26 and plays Los Dos at home on the final matchday of the regular season on Oct. 3. Group B could very well come down to the very last kick of the ball, as only two teams can prevail to the playoffs.

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Phoenix Rising FC returns home to host Las Vegas Lights FC on Friday at Casino Arizona Field, where fewer than 1,000 season-ticket members will be in attendance for the first time since March 7.

Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. and will be audio broadcasted live on ArizonaSports.com and on the new Arizona Sports app.