PHOENIX RISING FC

Phoenix Rising’s 19-match home unbeaten streak snapped by San Diego Loyal

Mar 26, 2022, 10:58 PM | Updated: Mar 27, 2022, 12:49 am
Phoenix Rising FC forward Marcus Epps dribbling in a 3-2 loss to San Diego Loyal SC at Wild Horse P...
Phoenix Rising FC forward Marcus Epps dribbling in a 3-2 loss to San Diego Loyal SC at Wild Horse Pass in Chandler, Arizona, on March 26, 2022. (Yulanda Gillam Photo)
(Yulanda Gillam Photo)

It was déjà vu from last week for Phoenix Rising FC against San Diego Loyal SC on Saturday in Chandler.

PRFC fell to SD 3-2 on the night, marking the first-ever loss at Wild Horse Pass and snapping the club’s 19-match home unbeaten streak that dated back to Sept. 19, 2020. Coincidentally, Phoenix’s last home loss — which took place at Casino Arizona Field — was also a 3-2 defeat to San Diego.

The loss is also the first time Rising has lost back-to-back matches since dropping the final two games of the 2018 regular season.

“We lost on a worldie [world-class goal],” PRFC manager Rick Schantz told reporters postgame. “The guy [Alejandro Guido] hits it top corner… But we created our own problems. Once we got to 2-2, we got emotional. We got really spread out. We couldn’t calm our emotions down.”

Phoenix Rising’s defeat on Saturday night was similar to last week’s 2-1 loss to Lights FC in Las Vegas in that PRFC proved it has the ability and grit to fight back in matches it is trailing in.

However, the real question now becomes why is Rising finding itself in that position to begin with?

If Phoenix is to right the ship, Schantz and Co. are going to need to figure out how to stop going down in the first half, as it allows the opposition to set up a low block and defend a lead — thus not allowing Rising’s counter-press tactic to be utilized to the best of its ability.

But remember, it’s still incredibly early on the 2022 USL Championship campaign. There are still 31 matches left out of 34, which means there are still 93 points up for grabs out of a possible 102. And while PRFC may only have three points out of its first nine, don’t forget what this club did after drawing its first four matches in 2019 — won 20 consecutive games en route to a record-breaking regular-season title.

“The problem we’re having right now is when our back is against the wall, you see us at our best,” Schantz said. “By then, it’s too little too late. We’ve given up seven goals in three games. That’s not gonna help us win anything.”

Schantz deployed a full-strength starting XI with forward Greg Hurst and center back James Musa both returning from injury. Musa was also making his season debut.

But despite having a complete squad and playing at home, San Diego dictated the match in the first half en route to a 2-0 lead at halftime.

After coming on for injured Loyal defender Jack Metcalf just six minutes in, Evan Conway wreaked havoc on Rising with two headers and one left-footed shot, the last of which found the back of the net.

And just before the break, Loyal doubled its advantage via Kyle Vassell’s tap-in goal that somehow found its way through a sea of Phoenix legs on a cross from Thomas Amang.

It was also déjà vu from last year’s epic 2-2 draw at the death at WHP for Rising in the second half. Once again while attacking the north end — Phoenix usually attacks the supporters’ south end in the second half — PRFC tied the game up at 2-2 with two goals within five minutes of each other.

The first came off the head of Musa on a cross whipped in by Aodhan Quinn in the 66th minute.

Five minutes later off a set piece via a corner, Luis Seijas’ left-footed strike found a way through and into the back of the net.

“We were desperate,” Schantz said of getting two goals in quick succession. “They felt like there was nothing to lose. We need to play with that mentality right from the beginning. We were really tentative in the first half and San Diego was much better than we were.

“We couldn’t beat anyone individually. Both wingers have struggled. We were holding onto the ball too much in the midfield. We weren’t playing simple. We weren’t playing fast. Our shape got all messed up after we gave up the first goal. No one was in position. That’s on me and it’s something I need to fix really fast.”

Once again, PRFC goalkeeper Ben Lundt made a handful of great saves to keep his side in the match for the full 90.

UP NEXT

Phoenix travels away to San Antonio FC next Saturday for a 5:30 p.m. kickoff.

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