PHOENIX RISING FC

Draw keeps Rising’s home unbeaten streak, regular-season title hopes alive

Oct 23, 2021, 11:00 PM
Phoenix Rising FC forward Darren Mattocks challenges for a ball in a 1-1 draw against Sacramento Re...
Phoenix Rising FC forward Darren Mattocks challenges for a ball in a 1-1 draw against Sacramento Republic FC on Oct. 23, 2021 at Wild Horse Pass in Chandler, Arizona. (Owain Evans Photo)
(Owain Evans Photo)

CHANDLER — Phoenix Rising FC missed out on an opportunity to claim its second Western Conference regular-season title in three years on Saturday night.

In front of 9,236 fans at Wild Horse Pass — the most ever in attendance in club history — PRFC came back to rescue a point from Sacramento Republic FC at 1-1.

The draw extends Phoenix’s unbeaten streak at home to 15 in a row, with Rising’s home record improving to 11W-4D-0L when playing in the Valley on the 2021 USL Championship campaign.

It also keeps PRFC’s regular-season title hopes alive, as a Tampa Bay Rowdies loss away to Las Vegas Lights FC coupled with a Phoenix win over Tacoma Defiance next week is the only way Rising can finish atop the league.

Should the aforementioned scenario take place, Phoenix would secure its second USLC regular-season crown in three seasons in addition to home-pitch advantage throughout the postseason — including the Final.

In the four matches played between Republic and Rising this season, the home side never won. Phoenix took all six points on the road in Sacramento and SRFC never trailed at Wild Horse Pass, taking two points out of six as the only team to keep a clean sheet away to PRFC.

Manager Rick Schantz deployed a possible preview of what the front-six could look like in the playoffs, but it was a rather lack-luster performance from the defending Western Conference champions.

“Honestly I thought we were really poor. You gotta give a lot of credit to Sacramento. That’s the second time they’ve come here and made it very difficult for us,” Schantz said postgame. “We bored our fans in the first half. We were too slow. We were not sharp. We tried a few different player combinations this game and we got a lot of answers.

“Had we lost, I would have been upset but they showed a lot of heart and emotion. What you saw was a team that didn’t feel desperation. This is the hard part. When you clinch your division and things are going really well for you, you forget what it feels like to be desperate to have to win a game.”

With Sacramento facing elimination with anything other than a win on the night, Republic goalkeeper Carlos Saldaña joined his teammates in attack for his side’s corner kicks following Phoenix’s 84th-minute equalizer — leaving Sac’s net completely empty.

Rising had an opportunity to win it with an empty-netter, but captain Solomon Asante was called offside upon receiving the ball in the box due to a very peculiar rule.

According to the Laws of the Game, if the goalkeeper is no longer the last man back, then two defenders had to be behind the ball when Arturo Rodriguez played it for the Ghanaian to be onside.

“We didn’t get the start we wanted but we came out in the second half and showed what we’re capable of doing,” PRFC midfielder Kevon Lambert said postgame.

“That will be key for us going into the playoffs. We know we have to start faster. Most of the teams that come here are going to play a lot like Sacramento did tonight.

Sacramento opened the scoring in the 23rd minute off a deflection goal from Luis Felipe. Republic finished the night with 11 shots (two on target) and six corners on 42% possession.

Phoenix finally broke through to grab the equalizer in the 84th minute off a set piece that was hit back across the face of goal by Lambert and put into the back of the net by Sac defender Nabilai Kibunguchy for an own goal. PRFC finished the contest with 15 shots (six on target) and four corners on 58% possession.

EXTRA TIME

PRFC right back Darnell King will be out “7-10 days” due to a lower-body injury, per Schantz.

UP NEXT

Phoenix closes out the regular season at home to Tacoma next Saturday.

Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. Listen to the audio stream on ArizonaSports.com or the Arizona Sports app.

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Draw keeps Rising’s home unbeaten streak, regular-season title hopes alive