PHOENIX RISING FC

Phoenix Rising begins road gauntlet with win over 10-man Tacoma Defiance

Sep 5, 2021, 5:17 PM | Updated: 5:27 pm
Phoenix Rising FC forward Darren Mattocks (#9) scores his second goal on a corner in a 3-1 win over...
Phoenix Rising FC forward Darren Mattocks (#9) scores his second goal on a corner in a 3-1 win over Tacoma Defiance at Cheney Stadium on Sept. 5, 2021 in Tacoma, Washington. (Owain Evans Photo)
(Owain Evans Photo)

Phoenix Rising FC commenced a gauntlet of road matches with a 3-1 win over Tacoma Defiance in Washington on Sunday afternoon.

PRFC’s victory marks its second in a row and the first time an away team has taken all three points at Cheney Stadium on the 2021 USL Championship campaign.

“I told the guys this is the match where — last week was about being warriors and competing and I knew New Mexico was very good — but I said this is the match where we have to prove to the rest of the league that we’re back, we’re a good team, we’re going to make it difficult for teams to play against (us). It wasn’t our best performance, but very gutsy,” Rising manager Rick Schantz told Owain Evans postgame.

Phoenix was once again without captain Solomon Asante, as he continues to nurse a hamstring injury that he sustained on Aug. 21 against Sacramento Republic FC.

Getting his first start for Rising was newly acquired Jamaican forward Darren Mattocks, who made his PRFC debut as a substitute in the 3-2 home win over New Mexico United last weekend.

Mattocks recorded a brace in the opening 32 minutes of Sunday’s contest.

Easily the most noticeable difference with the Jamaican as the starting No. 9 was his movement off the ball.

Mattocks offered his teammates passing options in behind, by coming short to play a one-two combination play or by going to the far post to receive a cross in the air.

“Darren Mattocks is certainly a difference-maker,” Schantz said. “He’s extremely explosive, you can see his ability to jump and finish crosses, tenacity.

“He’s still not fully fit, which for us to get him about 85-90 minutes was unbelievable. He sees the game at a really, really high level. So we’re going to have to get used to playing with him, but I think we’re going to see more of that from Darren.”

Tacoma got its lone goal on the afternoon via a set piece in the 35th minute to cut Phoenix’s lead to just 2-1.

Defiance continued to be dangerous from dead balls, as Rising goalkeeper Andre Rawls remained in form and made a quick reaction save to preserve PRFC’s lead five minutes into the second half.

A match-changing moment came just before the hour mark in the form of a second yellow and red card sending off for Tacoma midfielder Josh Atencio, leaving Defiance a man down for the last 30 minutes of the 90.

Phoenix eventually sealed all three points from the penalty spot thanks to the team’s leading goalscorer Santi Moar, who has now bagged 10 goals this season. The Spaniard also celebrated his 28th birthday on Sunday.

“Very solid performance,” Moar said. “I think the key was scoring early and Mr. Darren did just that — two goals in the first 30 minutes to put us ahead. And after that it was just managing the game. We were ahead all the time, so very, very happy with the team performance.”

The three points keeps Rising atop the Pacific Division standings by 11 points over second-placed San Diego Loyal SC, with Phoenix having a game in hand.

The win also propels PRFC to the top of the Western Conference with 44 points in 21 matches. However, El Paso Locomotive remains with the most points possible in USLC at 42 points in 20 games played.

Eastern Conference sides Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC (44 points in 24 matches), Tampa Bay Rowdies (43 points in 21 games) and Louisville City FC (40 points in 21 games) continue to remain in contention for the regular-season title and home-field advantage throughout the entirety of the postseason, including the USL Championship Final.

“I told them today — we showed them the standings, we showed them where we were at and I said, ‘How badly do you guys want to win?’ It’s just that simple,” Schantz said. “We had three draws and a loss on the bounce and now we’ve recovered well.

“These guys haven’t lost here all season and I told the boys that. They’re undefeated at home, I think from a points-per-match they’re second. But this is a game that you have to win if you want to be serious about winning trophies.”

UP NEXT

Phoenix Rising continues the road gauntlet on Saturday away to LA Galaxy II.

Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. Catch all the action on ArizonaSports.com and the Arizona Sports app.

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