Phoenix Rising FC celebrates having written itself into the USL Championship's record book on Friday night after its 24th win of the regular season. | Photo courtesy Grace Stufkosky
PHOENIX – As its players rattled off wins like there was no tomorrow, the inevitability of Phoenix Rising FC ending the season with the three biggest numbers for a team in the USL Championship’s record book stared back at everyone.
But history can be a hard thing to make, even for one of the greatest teams in the Championship’s collective memory.
A run of one win, one draw and two defeats in its last four outings meant that Rising FC had to make its final shot count, something that Head Coach Rick Schantz was only too willing to remind his players before kickoff on Friday night against OKC Energy FC.
“I told the guys today before the game, they get a chance to erase Cincinnati from the record books and be there all by themselves,” said Schantz. “I said, you want to be remembered. I want to put up on the walls in our building a bunch of records and some pictures of these guys because for a long time, Phoenix should be talking about this team.”
Of course, FC Cincinnati’s historic 2018 season won’t be completely erased from the record book. But after Rising FC’s 3-1 victory on Friday night – a win fueled by Adam Jahn’s 16th and 17th goals of the regular season, a superlative long-range strike by Kevon Lambert and a record 17th assist of the regular season for Solomon Asante – last year’s history-makers will be looking up at Rising FC from their place on the page.
24 victories. 78 points. 89 goals.
We wondered last year when we’d see another season like Cincinnati’s. Now we get to do the same for a Rising FC side that in the end managed to accomplish even more.
Beyond the three big numbers, there was the streak, both overall and on the road that saw the side simply refuse to either take a deficit lying down or allow any team to get up off the mat when Rising FC gained an advantage. The only time this season in which Phoenix led a game and didn’t take victory? You need to go back to the third game of the season for that, when Ish Jome’s stoppage-time free kick earned Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC a 2-2 draw at Casino Arizona Field.
Since then, Phoenix hasn’t dropped a point after holding a winning position all season. On top of that, it gained 19 points from losing positions, comeback kings when they’ve needed to be on the 13 occasions when they didn’t score the opening goal. When they do score first? Just a modest 21-0-0 record to show for it.
“It’s credit to every guy on the team,” said Jahn, whose career year was one of the leading lights in Rising FC’s regular season success. “We played 34 games, and everyone stepped up and contributed. I owe it to everyone on the team for personal success, and I’m sure Solo [Asante] and Junior [Flemmings] and everyone else can say the same thing. Anyone can step up at any given moment and that’s what we’re going to need going into the playoffs.”
The be sure, there were some marks that the side might be disappointed to have missed. Asante’s saved penalty kick in the first half – his third consecutive miss from the spot after having been almost flawless throughout the regular season, the margin between his 22 regular season goals and that of Cameron Lancaster, who retains his all-time crown – ended up a footnote, but might be the nagging thought in the back of some minds as the playoffs arrive, even if his teammates still believe he’s not only the man that will make the right decision, but the best man for the job moving forward.
“If he’s feeling it, then he’s going to take it,” said Jahn. “If he’s not, he’ll tell one of us to take it. But he’s earned it, and it’s his call. If he wants to keep taking them, let him keep taking them. He’ll put them in, don’t worry about it.”
“He’s one of our own,— z-Gavrinho (@Hellas_04) October 19, 2019
He’s one of our own,
Joey Farrell, he’s one of our own!”
This has to be my favorite @PHXRisingFC related picture. Smack dab in the middle of myself and my supporters section fam is @pharrellson, who came up to share the moment with us. What an amazing night pic.twitter.com/imCEe0IwA0
But that’s for another day. On Friday night, it was the moment to celebrate everything this side has already accomplished alongside its adoring fans, sealing its place among the very best the Championship has seen.
“It’s amazing, I haven’t lifted a regular season championship trophy before,” said Jahn. “Credit to everyone here in Phoenix, the players, the staff, the ownership, and especially the fans. We’re so happy for them. We keep telling people, one season is done, the new season is starting.”