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Joey Calistri equalizes at the death to save a point for Phoenix Rising

Phoenix Rising FC midfielder Joey Calistri celebrates after his late equalizer against San Diego Loyal SC at Wild Horse Pass in Chandler, Arizona on June 5, 2021. (Ashley Orellana Photo)

CHANDLER, Ariz. — Only in the game of soccer can a draw feel like a win.

Phoenix Rising FC drew San Diego Loyal SC 2-2 at the death in front of a club-record 8,058 fans on Saturday night at Wild Horse Pass.

But not all draws are created equal.

As the fourth official rose the board to show six minutes of stoppage time being added to the 90, Phoenix was trailing San Diego 2-0.

With the entire team pushing up — including goalkeeper Andre Rawls — PRFC managed to pull one back in the 90+1 minute via winger Santi Moar, his sixth in as many games on the 2021 USL Championship campaign and seventh consecutive regular-season match with a goal dating back to last year.

Rising forced six more corners in the final few minutes of added time, one of which featured a shot from Rawls.

But the third one was the charm, as Joey Calistri was set up by Arturo Rodriguez for a volley that was rifled into the back of the net in the 90+7 minute — reminiscent of his equalizer at the death against New Mexico United in 2019.

“We had to make an adjustment at halftime and I thought it was fantastic. The players responded very well, they understood the tactics,” Rising manager Rick Schantz said after the match. “We didn’t get a goal early enough I thought. We gave up the second goal on some passive defending. And then I think you saw the Phoenix Rising heart. They refuse to lose here. They will never stop. …

“I learned a valuable lesson as a coach today. You cannot take any opponents in this league lightly. You can’t ever think that it’s going to be easy and you have to push the boys from start to finish.”

On paper, Phoenix Rising appeared to have dominated the game having outshot San Diego 32-10. However, the key metric here is the number of shots on target, which Loyal beat Rising in 6-3.

That’s because for all of PRFC’s attempts on goal, none of them tested San Diego goalkeeper Trey Muse. And when Loyal was in attack, the likes of Miguel Berry and Jack Blake capitalized on their chances with top-drawer finishes.

“In the first half we really struggled. Jack Blake and Corey Hertzog killed us,” Schantz said. “They were coming in underneath their No. 9 and that pocket, we were struggling. Our fullbacks weren’t communicating enough. We weren’t stepping in tight.

“And they just picked us apart through the middle of the field. When we were pressing it was OK. But anytime they broke the press, we were in a lot of trouble.”

Schantz had a difficult decision to make coming into Saturday night’s contest.

Not only did he have to choose a replacement for No. 6 Kevon Lambert — who is on international duty with the Jamaican National Team — but the head coach also had to find a midfielder to fill in for the injured Aodhan Quinn, who picked up a hamstring injury in training on Thursday.

Schantz elected to go with Jeremy Kelly at the No. 6 after he trained all week as a No. 10 prior to Quinn’s injury. Calistri was the other midfielder to get the starting nod from the manager.

“If there’s any player on our team that you want to hit a volley, it’s Joey Calistri. … Joey Calistri and Joey Farrell are the heart and soul of this locker room,” Schantz said. “They will do anything for the team. Calistri stepped up and got it done. I’m very proud of him as well.

“I told the guys in the huddle there, every player will be needed at some point and everybody will have a big moment for us. And tonight was Joey Calistri’s.”

STOPPAGE TIME

Schantz on Quinn’s injury status: “It’s nothing that serious, but with Kev gone, I couldn’t risk losing Aodhan for six weeks so I think he should be alright in a few days.”

UP NEXT

Phoenix Rising hosts Pacific Division opponent Tacoma Defiance next Saturday at Wild Horse Pass.

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


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