PHOENIX – Phoenix Rising FC officially booked its place in the postseason as a first-half goal by Rufat Dadashov proved the difference in a 1-0 victory against Orange County SC on Saturday night at Casino Arizona Field.
Needing victory to boost its own playoff hopes, Orange County almost struck in just the second minute when Darwin Jones burst forward down the right side into space only for his near-post shot from inside the penalty area to be denied by Rising FC goalkeeper Zac Lubin. Seth Casiple also forced a save from Lubin in the 20th minute as he cut back centrally from the top-right edge of the penalty area for a low, left-footed effort.
Jones continued to be a threat for the visitors, though, and in the 24th minute a slipped pass by Brian Iloski gave him another chance that Lubin had to be quickly off his line to close down. Two minutes later, Phoenix threatened seriously for the first time as Solomon Asante was found breaking forward in the right channel by Dadashov, but the Ghanaian’s powerful shot was blocked away by OCSC goalkeeper Frederick Due.
Dadashov provided the opening goal eight minutes before halftime, however, as an angled cross into the penalty area by Darnell King found the Azerbaijani forward for a good downward header on target. Due made the initial save, but Dadashov followed up to put home the rebound for his 11th goal of the season.
Phoenix almost doubled its lead six minutes before halftime as Dadashov did well to knock down a header in the penalty area into the path of Jose Anguinaga for a shot that Due did just enough to keep out before his defense cleared any rebound opportunity. Orange County then had a chance early in the second half to level, but Michael Orozco’s header off Iloski’s corner from the left went over the crossbar.
Clear chances proved infrequent overall in the second half, overall, as a low shot by Asante in the 54th minute was comfortably saved by Due. Orange County’s Kevin Coleman delivered a teasing cross from the left with 20 minutes to go as well, but a sliding effort to get on the end of the delivery at the far post saw the ball just out of the reach of Iloski.
Dadashov had a chance at his second goal of the night with 12 minutes to go as he cleverly brought down a quick free kick by Asante into the right side of the penalty area but was unable to steer his finish on target, while Joey Calistri almost set up a late chance for the hosts with a low cross that Due blocked away.
Despite Orange County’s late efforts to find an equalizer, however, Rising FC held firm late to claim all three points and a fourth consecutive trip to the USL Championship Playoffs.
USLChampionship.com Man of the Match
Rufat Dadashov, Phoenix Rising FC – Dadashov scored the decisive goal, had four shots overall and put three on target, and also recorded two key passes and completed 18 of 20 passes overall.