PHOENIX – Phoenix Rising FC got a late equalizer to earn a 1-1 draw against Sacramento Republic FC in front of a club-record crowd of 9,236 fans at Wild Horse Pass but was unable to find a winner to drop behind the Tampa Bay Rowdies by two points for the best record in the Championship on a night when Sacramento’s postseason bid came to a close.
Neither side was able to create much in the early going, but in the 15th minute Republic FC carved out a golden opportunity when Shannon Gomez was played in on the left side by Cameron Iwasa before cutting a ball back to the penalty spot where the Sacramento veteran had arrived only for Iwasa’s finish to go wide of the right post. The visitors broke the deadlock in the 23rd minute, however, when Emil Cuello found Luis Felipe Fernandes in space in the left channel where the midfielder fired a long-range shot that deflected off a defender and found the left side of the net with Rising FC goalkeeper Andre Rawls wrong-footed.
Sacramento looked for a second a few minutes later as Andrew Wheeler-Omiunu sent a shot from 25 yards wide of the left post, and it wasn’t until first-half stoppage time that the hosts had their first good look at goal when Solomon Asante’s strike from range to the right of center dragged wide of the left post.
The sides exchanged chances early in the second half as Phoenix’s Aodhan Quinn curled a free kick on target that was saved by Sacramento’s Carlos Saldana, while Republic FC’s Nabi Kibunguchy fired a shot from the top-right edge of the penalty area to force a sharp denial by Rawls. Rising FC began to apply more pressure after a slow first half, though, and it took a good sliding challenge by Sacramento’s Hayden Sargis to keep Rising FC’s Santi Moar from a chance in the left side of the penalty area soon after.
The hosts went closer with 15 minutes to go when Arturo Rodriguez delivered a good free kick from the left that found Manuel Madrid for a header that Saldana had to tip over the crossbar, and a minute later the Republic FC goalkeeper made another big stop as a deep cross from the right by Joey Calistri found Moar for a shot from the left side of the box that Saldana parried before Quin shot high on the rebound. Tate Schmitt then threatened with a powerful shot from 25 yards that Saldana parried away with nine minutes remaining.
With six minutes to go, the pressure told as Quinn floated a free kick from the left side that found Kevon Lambert near the right post, and the Jamaican international knocked the ball back across goal where it deflected off Kibunguchy and into his own net for an own goal. Rising FC then went in search of a winner and three minutes later Asante had a turning shot from 20 yards saved by Saldana, and as Republic FC went after a winner of its own to keep its postseason hopes alive – sending Saldana up for a corner kick in stoppage time – Rising FC was caught offside on a counterattack the opposite way as the visitors scrambled to defend with an open goal at their end.
There would be no late winner for either side, however, as Republic FC’s postseason hopes came to an end, and Rising FC was left two points back of the Tampa Bay Rowdies for the best record in the Championship with one game remaining.
USLChampionship.com Man of the Match
Luis Felipe Fernandes, Sacramento Republic FC – Fernandes scored the lone goal for the visitors and was solid in midfield, completing 36 of 45 passes while making nine recoveries and four interceptions and winning 2 of 3 tackles.
SAC – Luis Felipe Fernandes (Emil Cuello) 23’
PHX – Nabi Kibunguchy (Own Goal) 84’