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Phoenix Rising adds a 3rd Jamaican international in defender Damion Lowe

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 05: Cristian Roldan #10 of the United States and Damion Lowe #17 of Jamaica battle for the ball in the first half during an International Friendly at Audi Field on June 5, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

Phoenix Rising FC has signed Jamaican defender Damion Lowe, the club announced on Wednesday.

Lowe, 27, marks the third Jamaican international on PRFC along with Golden Boot leader Junior Flemmings and midfielder Kevon Lambert.

The center back comes to Phoenix after he and Norweigan top-flight club IK Start mutually agreed to terminate his contract due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Lowe, who will be donning the No. 31 on the back of his kit, has been training with PRFC since at least Tuesday, but has not played a professional game of football since November 2019.

“It’s an opportunity for us to take a look and see if he can improve our team and maybe get him in shape and get him ready for the playoff run or something like that,” manager Rick Schantz told reporters via Zoom on Tuesday.

Lowe was drafted No. 8 overall by the Seattle Sounders in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft, where he would work with PRFC’s current strength and conditioning coach.

The defender would then be loaned out to then-Sounders 2 (now Tacoma Defiance) and then-NASL side Minnesota United before joining Tampa Bay Rowdies in 2017. In that time, the Jamaican international compiled 63 appearances and four goals. Since then, Lowe was with Eliteserien side IK Start, where he appeared in 51 matches as a defender and managed to score three goals.

The center back also has 22 caps and two goals for his country, including playing every minute of the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup, which saw Jamaica get three clean sheets in six matches before falling to the U.S. on an 88th-minute Jordan Morris goal in the Final.

In the 2019 Gold Cup, Lowe started four of five matches and scored the game-winning goal for the Reggae Boyz in the 56th minute of a 3-2 win over Honduras. Jamaica would go on to win its group and advance to the semifinals before falling 3-1 to the U.S.

Schantz said he spoke on the phone with Lowe and told the 6-foot-2, 174-pound defender that although things were already “pretty solid” in Phoenix, the club would give him an opportunity.

“Junior and Kevon both know him from the national team,” Schantz said. “He has played at a high level. He has been successful in USL.

“If he plays to the level that I would expect and what he’s capable of, I’d almost say he’s bigger, stronger and faster than almost anyone we have. He would slot right into one of the center back spots — I don’t know, but it would create a rotation at center back.”

The manager added that because three center backs are currently being deployed in the starting XI (Corey Whelan, A.J. Cochran and Joey Farrell), the only cover at the position is fullback Kyle Bjornethun and defender Austin Ledbetter, who was converted from fullback to center back this season.

“Damion gives us that three (players) for two (positions) again in the middle and that’s extremely important going into playoffs,” Schantz said.

Per league rules for the 2020 season only, a player must be in the Matchday 18 twice by the end of the regular season in order to be eligible for the USL Championship playoffs, which means Lowe would have to at least be on the bench in two of Phoenix Rising’s next four matches.

Rising FC returns to action on Saturday as Phoenix hosts Landon Donovan-led side San Diego Loyal SC, who currently stands in third place in Group B.

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