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Phoenix Rising goes lights out in record-breaking win over Las Vegas

Phoenix Rising FC center back Joey Farrell celebrates after scoring a goal against Las Vegas Lights FC at Wild Horse Pass in Chandler, Arizona on May 22, 2021. (Owain Evans Photo)

CHANDLER, Ariz. — If there was a blueprint on how to defeat Phoenix Rising FC, it surely wasn’t followed by Las Vegas Lights FC on Saturday night at Wild Horse Pass in PRFC’s 5-1 thrashing win.

Rising set single-game USL Championship records with a total of 41 shots and 20 on target. Add that to Phoenix’s 18 corners, 55% possession and 82% passing accuracy and it’s easy to understand why PRFC was so dominant on the night.

Compare those metrics to Las Vegas’ 10 shots — five of which were on target — and only 74% passing accuracy, which Phoenix was able to easily put up in the second half alone.

Other than a few Kevon Lambert and Jon Bakero turnovers — the latter of which resulted in Vegas’ lone goal — Rising was in complete control of the match, especially in the second half. A halftime team talk from Schantz had the midfield — Lambert specifically — drop deeper in order to facilitate the ball on the wings in order to provide service for striker Rufat Dadashov.

“When we play with confidence, it’s a pretty special group of players,” manager Rick Schantz said postgame. “We started really well, that was the idea — to get after them fast. And then I think we made some really silly mistakes and lost our confidence in the first half a little bit.

“But I talked to them in the second half about having to be more intelligent. Kevon and Aodhan (Quinn) and Jon were picking the ball in the wrong spaces against them. I think after that we did a must bigger job.”

Rising once again got out its trademark early start via Rufat Dadashov’s first goal on the 2021 campaign that came on a Noah Billingsley cross less than 120 seconds into the match.

Before the slight tactical adjustment in the midfield, the aforementioned turnovers resulted in Las Vegas’ only opportunities on the night.

A big save from PRFC goalkeeper Andre Rawls — who returned to the starting XI after missing the last two games with a groin injury — kept Phoenix ahead until the 22nd minute. That save was the first shot on target that Rising had conceded in the first half of any match this season.

Just before the halftime whistle, Rising retook the lead for good in the 39th minute on a Joey Farrell header off a corner. The center back and former college striker extends his tally as the all-time leading scoring as a defender in club history.

“We knew that we had to raise our level. We were playing OK,” Farrell said. “We had a few lapses in the first half. But we told ourselves to cut out the lapses, move the ball quickly and make them do the work.

“The key in the second half, what made it easier for us was that we kept the ball a lot better. We cut out the sloppy turnovers and we forced them to defend deep in their half and then from there were able to offensively defend and keep them pinned in their own half a lot.”

Phoenix came out with a thunderous start in the second half, which really put the game to bed by the hour mark. Rising scored three goals in the opening 18 minutes of the second 45-minute frame.

PRFC forward Santi Moar resumed his MVP form. The Spaniard scored his fourth goal in as many matches on a volley that was smashed into the side netting six minutes into the 2nd half to give his side a 3-1 advantage.

Four minutes later, Dadashov would pick up his brace and make it 4-1 Rising on a goal that was virtually identical to his first.

The final goal on the night came in the 63rd minute from the penalty spot after left back Ryan Flood was brought down in the box. Captain Solomon Asante stepped up and converted the spot kick to bring the scoreline to 5-1.

EXTRA TIME

Goalkeeper Ben Lundt flew to Cincinnati so his wife wouldn’t have to drive across the country by herself, Schantz said. The manager told the German shot-stopper that he was going to start Rawls in net anyway and looks forward to the competition in training between the two.

Additionally, Schantz said that right back Darnell King came in for Billingsley at halftime because of “a little bit of a groin issue” suffered by the Kiwi.

UP NEXT

Phoenix Rising will take an away trip to take on Sacramento Republic FC on May 29.

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