PHOENIX – Rubio Rubin scored a first-half hat trick for San Diego Loyal SC, which then held off Phoenix Rising FC’s late pressure to take a 3-2 victory at Casino Arizona Field on Saturday night. Junior Flemmings scored twice for the hosts, who also had a goal ruled out late on, as SD Loyal moved back into second place in the Group B standings.
Looking to reverse a defeat when it first met Rising FC, SD Loyal got out to a flying start in the third minute. A cross from the left by Collin Martin came to Jack Metcalf as he approached the top of the penalty area, and his first-time pass found Rubin in space in the right side of the area for a low finish that picked out the left corner of the net.
Nine minutes later, the visitors struck again as Alejandro Guido delivered a pass to Rubin 35 yards from goal, and after his defender slipped as he gained possession, the previous U.S. Men’s National Team forward strode forward and shot low into the left corner of the net.
Phoenix almost pulled a goal back midway through the first half as they worked the ball into the penalty area for Rufat Dadashov, who pulled a square ball to his right that found Santi Moar with a chance to shoot. SD Loyal goalkeeper Jon Kempin came quickly off his line, however, and got a hand on Moar’s shot to tip the effort wide of the right post.
The chance seemed to lift Rising FC, but SD Loyal hit the woodwork in the 34th minute when Miguel Berry’s header off a corner kick from the right by Metcalf rebounded off the crossbar and was cleared to safety by the hosts. Phoenix struck four minutes before the halftime break, however, as Flemmings – who had previously had a couple of sighters from distance – picked out the bottom-right corner of the net for his 13th goal of the season and the 50th regular season goal of his Championship career.
Flemmings almost pulled the hosts level three minutes later but had a close-range opportunity closed down and blocked by Metcalf at the top of the six-yard area. That moment proved key in the fourth minute of first-half stoppage time as Rubin completed his hat trick, weaving past two defenders to get into the right side of the penalty area before cutting centrally for a shot that took a deflection on its way to the back of the net.
Phoenix looked to regain its footing in the second half and Darnell King had a big chance just before the hour-mark that he fired over the crossbar after a chipped cross by Kevon Lambert had bounced to him in the penalty area. Joe Farrell then tried a close-range bicycle kick that went just wide of the right post after SD Loyal was unable to cleanly clear a corner kick.
San Diego suffered a blow late on when Kempin suffered an injury and had to be replaced by substitute goalkeeper Jake Fenlason, who was immediately greeted by an onslaught of Rising FC attack. The hosts appeared to have pulled a goal back with six minutes to go as a header by Dadashov came off the left post and looked to have crossed the line, but the goal was ruled out due to the ball hitting the match official in the buildup to the opportunity, resulting in a drop ball where the prior incident had occurred.
Phoenix did find a second goal with two minutes to go, as a quickly-taken short corner to Moar on the left saw the Spaniard deliver a cross that Flemmings rose to head home for his second goal of the night. San Diego then put the ball in the net a minute later, but Ben Spencer’s finish from close range was ruled out for offside to keep it a one-goal game.
SD Loyal was then reduced to 10 men in stoppage time as Grant Stoneman was sent off for his second yellow card of the game, and Phoenix threw players forward in pursuit of a final push. But San Diego held off the hosts to claim all three points as it kept its playoff chances alive.
USLChampionship.com Man of the Match
Rubio Rubin, San Diego Loyal SC – Rubin scored a hat trick, put all four of his shots on goal, and completed 31 of 40 passes to give the visitors the goals they needed to pull off a big road win.