PHOENIX – Solomon Asante scored the only goal in the 114th minute as Phoenix Rising FC emerged with a 1-0 victory against Sacramento Republic FC after extra time at Casino Arizona Field to advance to the Western Conference Semifinals of the 2020 USL Championship Playoffs on Saturday night.
Asante had hit the woodwork early in the game, but overall big chances had been few in the opening 90 minutes. Sacramento carved out a golden opportunity five minutes into extra time to grab the advantage, however, when Drew Skundrich found space on the left side and delivered a cross to the back post that was perfectly knocked down by Kharlton Belmar in the direction of Dariusz Formella. The Polish player’s volleyed finish shot just over the crossbar to keep the game even.
Santi Moar had the first real chance for Phoenix in the extra session in the 103rd minute as he cut in from the left and curled a shot from the top of the penalty area just wide of the right post. With six minutes to go, however, the Spaniard was in the middle of what proved to be the winning goal as on a similar play his shot was redirected at the top of the six-yard area into the bottom-left corner of the net by Asante to send the hosts into celebrations.
Sacramento tried to find an answer in the closing stages, and in stoppage time a chance almost arrived as Villyan Bijev drifted in from the left and floated a ball across the penalty area. The delivery was just too high for his teammates in the penalty area, however, and as Rising FC goalkeeper Zac Lubin claimed the ball low near his right post it proved the final major moment as the hosts claimed victory.
Phoenix had earlier almost grabbed the lead in the fifth minute as Asante rang the outside of the left post with a free kick that was directed toward the top-left corner of the net and caromed away to safety. Sacramento’s first big chance came in the 23rd minute as a low cross from the right by Bijev slid under the foot of Belmar but fell perfectly for Formella, whose first-time shot was punched away well by Lubin.
Clear chances proved hard to come by for either side overall, though, as Sacramento’s Rodrigo Lopez fired wide of the top-right corner with a first-time effort in the 28th minute. Phoenix tried to apply pressure late in the first half, but Asante and Jon Bakero couldn’t find the target as the former had his effort blocked and the latter sailed a finish well over the crossbar from a designed corner kick as the game went to the break.
Sacramento had a half-chance of its own around the hour-mark as Lopez fired over the crossbar, while Rising FC had a long-range strike by Kevon Lambert deflect wide of the right post in the 66th minute, but neither side troubled the goalkeeper seriously following that as the game went to extra time. It appeared that might be the way the game would end, too, but Asante’s late redirection sent the hosts on after a hard-fought struggle.
USLChampionship.com Man of the Match
Solomon Asante, Phoenix Rising FC – Asante’s late winner capped a performance that saw him hit the woodwork early and record seven shots overall while looking to provide the attacking spark for his side.