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Phoenix Rising’s Asante, Dadashov receive USL All-League Team honors

Phoenix Rising FC's Rufat Dadashov (left), Jon Bakero (center) and Solomon Asante (#20). (Arizona Sports/Ashley Orellana)

For the second consecutive season, Phoenix Rising FC had multiple players receive USL Championship All-League Team honors.

The league announced on Wednesday that captain Solomon Asante was named to the All-League First Team for the third straight year, while striker Rufat Dadashov received All-League Second Team honors.

Following his MVP, Golden Boot and single-season assist record-breaking 2019 season, Asante once again finds himself among the best players in USL Championship.

In a coronavirus-shortened 2020 season, the Ghanaian still managed to become the first player in league history to claim the Assists Champion award in back-to-back campaigns.

In just 14 matches this year, Asante netted six goals and notched nine assists in addition to leading USLC in chances created (42) and finishing tied for the most big chances created with nine.

“Solo is going to be All-League in this team no matter [what],” Phoenix Rising manager Rick Schantz told reporters via Zoom on Wednesday. “What a lot of people miss out on is his ability to be a leader, his ability to really support the team, do whatever it takes.”

After coming over from Germany in the offseason, Dadashov quickly made his presence known within Phoenix Rising.

The Azerbaijani international netted a hat trick in the season opener en route to 11 goals on the 2020 campaign to go along with four assists. He also managed to post 21 key passes with a 72.4 overall passing percentage.

“Having Junior (Flemmings) and Santi (Moar) now as wings along with Solo, Rufat just had to work his tail off to be in the right spots at the right time, which he did,” Schantz said.

“Every game, Rufat’s workload was probably one of the highest on the team. He puts in an effort to defend, he puts in an effort to do whatever is asked of him for the game plan. And then he gets in positions to score and when he’s blessed with an opportunity, he puts it away. To score 11 goals in his first time in the U.S. just says there’s quality there about him.”

And although 22 players received All-League Team honors, they were only dispersed between 11 teams, with Louisville City FC leading the way with four, all of whom were named to the First Team.

But a 2018 USL Championship Final rematch was not in the cards this year, as the Tampa Bay Rowdies will be hosting PRFC in the 2020 edition on Sunday night.

Tampa Bay had a pair of defenders named to the First and Second Team in Forrest Lasso and Jordan Scarlett, respectively.

Phoenix having two forwards named to each All-League Team while Tampa Bay has two defenders named to each team is a microcosm of what each of these two sides does best and is a preview of what should be expected to come.

Who will prevail, PRFC’s USL Championship-best attack (44 goals) or the Rowdies’ defense, which allowed the second-fewest amount of goals this season (11)?

“As I’ve said, you’ve got Sam (Stanton), Jon (Bakero), Jose (Aguinaga), Jordan (Schweitzer) and Kevon (Lambert) behind [the forwards] and then you have a back four that can keep possession and play penetrating passes,” Schantz said. “The front three are beneficiaries statistically of a team that is aggressive and likes to go forward.

“If there’s anything, maybe my personality is one that I like to attack offensively and defensively and I like to go after things and I want to win. I don’t want to just sit back and kind of be satisfied. I think that there’s always more to go for. As I told the owners, we’re not just going to win trophies. We’re going to do it in an attacking and attractive and aggressive style that I think our fans will be proud of and the players haven’t let me down.”