Phoenix Rising FC goalkeeper Zac Lubin celebrates with fans after keeping his team-record 13th clean sheet of the season. | Photo courtesy Phoenix Rising FC
For the second time in three games, it looked as though Phoenix Rising FC’s record winning streak was in serious jeopardy.
But as we learned when Rising FC scored three goals in a four-minute span to turn a late one-goal deficit into a 4-2 victory over Tacoma Defiance on August 27, you can’t count this Phoenix squad out until the final whistle goes.
With the clock winding down in a scoreless contest against San Antonio FC and its back up against the proverbial wall once again on Saturday night, the club’s season-long standouts stepped up to save its now 18-game winning streak.
First, Zac Lubin.
The Rising FC goalkeeper, who made three first-half saves and watched helplessly as Jack Barmby’s dipping volley struck his left-hand post during a busier-than-normal opening 45 minutes, produced his best stop of the night to keep the contest scoreless with five minutes remaining.
San Antonio forward Frank Lopez got in behind the Phoenix defense – as he had on a few occasions earlier in the evening – but couldn’t finesse his right-footed shot underneath Lubin as the Rising FC shot-stopper came off his line well to shut down the chance.
Then, Solomon Asante.
Two minutes after Lubin had kept his side in the game, the Championship’s presumptive MVP added a moment worthy of the award to his already impressive resume.
Stationed 25 yards from goal, with all eyes fixed on him as he stood over a free kick, the Ghanaian forward fired an unstoppable strike over the San Antonio wall, beyond the reach of SAFC goalkeeper Matt Cardone as it curled toward the top-left corner and caromed in off the post to give his side the lead and send the sellout crowd of 6,466 fans at Casino Arizona Field into a frenzy.
Rising FC held on late to secure its 18th straight win and Lubin’s league-leading 13th clean sheet of the season, which also broke the franchise record. The victory also meant that Phoenix set new single-season club records for wins (20) and points (64).
And while there are more individual records for Asante and Lubin to chase down the stretch as Rising FC tries to rewrite the league’s record book, the message to the rest of the Western Conference is clear.
Phoenix has as much heart – if not more – as it has talent.