PHOENIX – A late goal by Darren Mattocks lifted Phoenix Rising FC to a 2-1 victory against Orange County SC on Saturday night at Wild Horse Pass despite the hosts being reduced to 10 men for the entire second half following a red card to Tate Schmitt in first-half stoppage time.
Looking for a fifth consecutive victory, Phoenix broke out of the gates quickly and almost went ahead in the fourth minute when Joey Farrell sent a turning shot wide of the left post from 12 yards out. The hosts made the early breakthrough in the ninth minute, as after a corner from the left, Solomon Asante reeled in possession beyond the far side of the penalty area and quickly slipped a ball inside for Santi Moar, who controlled and fired in off the inside of the left post.
Moar appeared to have added another for Rising FC seven minutes later as he cut in of the left wing and fired a low shot that found the net, but the goal was ruled out after Aodhan Quinn was determined to be interfering with the goalkeeper’s line of sight in an offside position to keep it a one-goal game. The Spaniard continued to threaten for the hosts, though, and volleyed just over from a tight angle on the left side of the penalty area in the 22nd minute as Phoenix made most of the early going.
The game began to become heated around the half-hour mark as Schmitt was shown a yellow card for a heavy challenge on Orange County’s Brian Iloski that brought the teams together. Phoenix almost added a second goal just before halftime as Asante caught a looping clearance flush on the volley outside the penalty area to force an excellent save by OCSC’s Patrick Rakovsky, but soon after Schmitt’s initial yellow card proved crucial as he was sent off for a second cautionable offense in first-half stoppage time to reduce Phoenix to 10 men.
Orange County almost took advantage in the third minute of first-half stoppage time as Michael Orozco’s header off a corner by Eric Calvillo was headed off the goal line by Phoenix’s Arturo Rodriguez, but two minutes into the second half the visitors pulled level as a sweeping cross from the left by Iloski found Ronaldo Damus for a header into the top-left corner of the net and the Haitian international’s 13th goal of the season. OCSC then went close to taking the lead nine minutes later as Ben Mines’ first-time shot from the top of the penalty area was kicked to safety by Phoenix goalkeeper Andre Rawls.
Despite being down a man, Rising FC was still able to create changes and in the 64th minute Mattocks held off a defender but was unable to get full purchase on a finish as Rakovsky saved. Quinn also went close four minutes later with a shot from 20 yards that was palmed away, while Moar broke onto a flicked header by Mattocks with 16 minutes to go but sent his finish just wide of the right post.
Orange County almost took the lead in the 78th minute as Rawls came to clear a ball over the top beyond his penalty area but mishit his attempt, sending the ball toward Orange County’s Damus on the right only for the Haitian international’s finish to go just wide as the goalkeeper scrambled to recover. With four minutes to go, however, Phoenix hit the front again when Moar sent Quinn into space in the left side of the penalty area and the former OCSC man delivered a low cross that Mattocks tapped home inside the six-yard area.
The visitors tried to find another equalizer in the final minutes as Calvillo fired a low shot just wide of the left post, while in stoppage time Sean Okoli controlled well with his chest to set up a shot from the right side of the penalty area that went just wide of the near post. That proved to be the last chances for Orange County, though, as Phoenix held on for a crucial victory to its pursuit of the best record in the Championship.
USLChampionship.com Man of the Match
Santi Moar, Phoenix Rising FC – Moar scored the opening goal for the hosts and played a role in the late winner while finishing with six shots and one key pass and completing 18 of 23 passes overall in the victory.
PHX – Santi Moar (Solomon Asante) 9’
OC – Ronaldo Damus (Brian Iloski) 47’
PHX – Darren Mattocks (Aodhan Quinn) 86’