Phoenix Rising wins battle of the valleys with victory over RGV

Jul 31, 2021, 11:29 PM | Updated: Aug 1, 2021, 1:40 pm
Phoenix Rising FC striker Rufat Dadashov #9 celebrates after scoring against Rio Grande Valley Toro...
Phoenix Rising FC striker Rufat Dadashov #9 celebrates after scoring against Rio Grande Valley Toros FC in a 3-1 win at Wild Horse Pass in Chandler, Arizona, on July 31, 2021. (Owain Evans Photo).
(Owain Evans Photo)

CHANDLER, Ariz. — Phoenix Rising FC won the battle of the valleys as PRFC thwarted Rio Grande Valley Toros FC’s claim at the title with a 3-1 victory at Wild Horse Pass on Saturday night.

Phoenix dominated the first half on a hot and humid night by coming out and attacking RGV to take a 3-0 lead inside the opening half hour.

In the first half alone, Rising outshot Toros 11-3 (3-2 on target) with 64% possession and an astounding 89% passing accuracy on 234 passes compared to RGV’s 139 (78%). PRFC also had more first half corners at a 4-2 clip.

“We started extremely well. The first half was fantastic,” manager Rick Schantz said postgame. “The only thing we talked about at halftime was getting a fourth goal in the first 10 minutes of the second half and really killing the game.

“If we could, we would be in a position to rest some guys and prepare for next week [two games]. That’s a mistake I made. When you start talking about giving guys rest, bad things can happen.”

Rising won the battle on the night in shots 18-15 (8-4 on target) and possession (58%), but was edged-out by RGV on corners 7-6.

Offensively, it was almost a perfect performance from Phoenix’s midfield and front three.

With RGV sitting back with five at the back and allowing Rising to have so much possession, Toros challenged PRFC to have to score via redirection and combination play — and Phoenix was up to the task.

“Aodhan’s vision, his ability to direct traffic and slow the game down at times,” Schantz said. “That matched well with Arturo’s [Rodriguez] willingness to dribble at people. There’s a good balance there.”

For the third week in a row, a Phoenix Rising defender found himself on the scoresheet.

After Joe Farrell assisted a James Musa goal off a corner in back-to-back matches, right back Darnell King got in on the action and fired in what he called a shot that wasn’t dealt with by RGV and ended up in the back of the net for the opening goal 14 minutes in.

“Any time we can get on the scoresheet it’s great,” King said. “We know our forwards can get the job done but if we can put some in the back of the net, we know we’re really firing on all cylinders. That’s really good for us going forward.”

Five minutes later, a combination play from Rodriguez — who got the starting nod from Schantz on the night — Santi Moar and Aodhan Quinn resulted in a goal for the American to give PRFC a 2-0 lead in the 19th minute.

Striker Rufat Dadashov’s great run of form continued on Saturday night, as the Azerbaijani continued to find his teammates in space on one-touch passes.

He also netted his second goal in three matches off a set piece that was delivered in by Rodriguez in the 27th minute to cap-off Rising’s 3-0 advantage at halftime.

“It was great for us to score another goal on a free kick,” Dadashov said. “We’re getting better every week. It’s another way for us to score and should be a good advantage for us the rest of the season.”

“It puts fear into guys when they know you’re effective on set pieces,” Schantz added. “They know they cannot foul us and give up opportunities.”

Despite a let off of intensity in the second half — which resulted in RGV’s lone goal in the 55th minute — Phoenix Rising was able to hold on for the victory not only on the scoreline, but also in the stat book.

Defensively, King led the way by not getting beat on a one-on-one or when chasing a ball in behind by using his experience and physicality to shield RGV attackers from getting to the ball.

“I knew I had that space going forward,” King said. “They kept a guy high.

“I was a little worried about that, but I trusted my center backs to do their job. They had my back so that enabled me to go forward more. I’m thankful we took our opportunities when they came.”

That type of intensity and effort resulted in Toros having to take most of their shots from outside the penalty area, most of which ended up off target.

But German goalkeeper Ben Lundt — who returned in net after not starting in the 1-0 win away to San Diego Loyal SC — was up to the task when called upon, making two big saves on would-be goals to preserve PRFC’s lead on the night.


Phoenix Rising travels away to Oakland Roots SC for a midweek match on Wednesday night on ESPN 2.

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

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Phoenix Rising wins battle of the valleys with victory over RGV