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Solo Asante, Ben Lundt lead Phoenix Rising to clean sheet win over Tacoma

Phoenix Rising FC midfielder and Valley native Tate Schmitt (No. 25) salutes his family in the crowd after scoring a goal in his PRFC debut against Tacoma Defiance at Wild Horse Pass in Chandler, Ariz., on June 12, 2021. (Owain Evans Photo)

CHANDLER, Ariz. — Some captains are vocal leaders. Others lead by example.

On Saturday night, Phoenix Rising FC captain Solomon Asante did so with a brace en route to a PRFC 3-0 win over Tacoma Defiance in front of 7,360 fans at Wild Horse Pass.

The Ghanaian scored one goal in each half that were both missiles from 25 yards out as Asante passed former Rising goalkeeper Carl Woszczynski for the most minutes played in club history.

“We were a little sloppy at times, but I think in the second half you saw again — we were more willing to take risks going forward with more numbers,” Phoenix Rising manager Rick Schantz said postgame. “But also when we were attacking, our fullbacks were a little more narrow so we didn’t let them out.

“Whenever this team is in trouble, whenever something is wrong, you just call Solo Asante and say, ‘Hey, put the team on your back.’ I’m at a loss for words with this kid. I hope he never ever leaves Phoenix.”

Standing between the sticks on the other side of the pitch was Phoenix goalkeeper Ben Lundt, who got the starting nod from Schantz on the night.

The German shot-stopper played just as crucial of a role as Asante did after compiling a total of eight saves, four or five of which could have easily been goals for Tacoma Defiance.

“[Lundt] was very good. He made the two big saves that he had to,” Schantz said. “What we expect from our goalkeepers is we’re going to attack a lot and we’re going to put you in some difficult moments.

“I thought the breakaway save at 1-0 was massive and when a keeper does that, I’m sure the center backs were thanking him. And it makes you feel like we’re not going to lose.”

Rising struggled to defend Tacoma No. 9 Samuel Adeniran, who used his massive 6-foot-5, 200-pound frame to get a plethora of chances for Defiance. Most of those shot attempts came off Phoenix turnovers in the midfield that left the backline exposed.

“Early on he was a big, strong, physical No. 9. He got a couple opportunities on mistakes on our part,” Schantz said. “It doesn’t matter who the guy is, we can’t play three defenders for one guy. It would kill our whole system. So they have to man-up.

“Joey (Farrell) is running around with a cut in his forehead that’s about an inch wide and constantly bleeding. That’s the kind of warrior you need at center back to deal with people like that.”

Fortunately for PRFC, Lundt’s Man of the Match-esque performance led to both his and the team’s third clean sheet on the 2021 USL Championship campaign.

Schantz made two changes to his starting XI from last week while No. 6 midfielder Kevon Lambert remains on international duty with the Jamaican National Team.

In addition to Lundt returning in goal for Andre Rawls, center back Joe Farrell got his second start of the season in place of Tobi Adewole.

Midfielder Aodhan Quinn remained sidelined due to a hamstring issue he picked up during training on June 3. However, Schantz said that he could have played, but that it wasn’t worth the risk.

PRFC midfielder Joey Calistri had the assist on Asante’s first goal in 40th minute, which was an absolute screamer into the upper-90 to give Rising a 1-0 lead.

Schantz brought on midfielder Arturo Rodgriguez for Jon Bakero at halftime. The change immediately paid dividends, as the Mexican provided a play-making ability in the final third for PRFC.

“We needed more energy in the midfield,” Schantz said. “I thought (Tacoma midfielder Danny) Leyva and the other holding midfielder were killing us in possession and we weren’t winning balls off of them.

“Arturo if he does anything, the kid plays with a lot of emotion and I love to see it because he was 15-20 minutes — now he’s 45. You don’t want to just throw a kid out there and set him up for failure, so I’m very happy with him. He’s getting his opportunities. He’s doing what a pro should do. But again, Bakero understands that what we needed at the moment and he cared about his team. He was good for his teammate.”

Ten minutes into the second half, Asante grabbed his brace on another missile from outside the box that took a deflection on its path into the back of the net to give Phoenix a 2-0 advantage.

Unfortunately for PRFC winger Santi Moar, his illustrious goal-scoring streak came to an end on Saturday night. But the Spaniard still managed to add to his assist tally.

Valley native Tate Schmitt put an exclamation point on his PRFC debut with a goal in the 80th minute. After coming over on loan from MLS’ Real Salt Lake earlier in the week, the midfielder put on the moves in the box and cooly tucked it away on the pass from Moar.

“Lucky to have my parents and family in the stands, just playing in front of the hometown,” Schmitt said.

“It’s just very special to be able to come out in front of them and let them see me play after working so hard in the past year of not getting an opportunity to play in front of them. So it was nice to play in front of the fans and my hometown.”

UP NEXT

Phoenix Rising travels to San Diego to take on Pacific Division rival Loyal SC next Saturday.

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