Photo courtesy Michael Rincon / Phoenix Rising FC
PHOENIX – Phoenix Rising FC scored once in either half to take a 2-0 victory against Real Monarchs SLC on Saturday night in front of 6,008 fans at the Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex to earn its fourth win in the past five games. Rising FC had a big chance to open the scoring in the fifth minute as Alessandro Riggi broke in behind on a two-man break, but Monarchs goalkeeper Connor Sparrow stoned his low shot toward the left corner. The hosts took the lead just before the half-hour mark, however, as Sam Hamilton scored from close range after Kevon Lambert’s header from a corner kick was initially saved by Sparrow. The Monarchs almost hit back as a good free kick by Charlie Adams deflected off a defender and just wide of the right post, but Phoenix continued to hold the upper hand in chances as Rising FC’s defense limited Real’s good looks on goal. Phoenix doubled its lead with 17 minutes to go as second-half substitute Jason Johnson scored almost immediately after coming on as he knocked home Kody Wakasa’s cross from close range. The Monarchs almost hit back quickly as Chandler Hoffman’s finish from Sebastian Velasquez’s cross from the right went just off target, and Johnson went close to giving Rising FC a three-goal lead with two minutes to go, only to be denied well by Sparrow, but Phoenix held on comfortably to earn another important win.
29’ – PHX – Sam Hamilton
73’ – PHX – Jason Johnson (Kody Wakasa)
Three Things That Matter:
1. Phoenix continued its push toward a playoff berth in the Western Conference with another good home victory that earned a fourth win in the past five games. Rising FC looked consistently the more dangerous side throughout the match despite conceding the possession advantage to the Monarchs, using its speed to challenge its visitors when it got the chance to break forward. That’s been the pattern for Phoenix for much of this season, with the side averaging only 43 percent possession over the course of the season going into Saturday’s contest, but it’s been effective in putting the club in playoff position.
2. As long as Rising FC’s lead was one goal, there was always the chance the Monarchs could find a way to grab a point, but thanks to Jason Johnson’s eighth goal of the season Phoenix gave itself an important cushion for the final 15 minutes. Johnson has been the most consistent attacking threat for Rising FC in the absence of Didier Drogba, who made a late appearance as a substitute in his first appearance since suffering an injury last month, and the Jamaican’s calm finish with his first touch after coming on as a second-half substitute was another example of the quality he brings to Phoenix’s front line.
3. The Monarchs are now on their first three-game winless streak of the season, and first in more than a year, and the signs of frustration were there late on in Saturday’s contest as the team’s attack struggled to come to life when it needed to most. With San Antonio FC in action on Sunday evening, Real’s lead at the top of the Western Conference could be down to one point by the time it takes to the field back at Rio Tinto Stadium on Friday night against Orange County SC, a game that is now looking like a must-win to get things back on track for the Western Conference leader.
USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Sam Hamilton, Phoenix Rising FC – Hamilton scored the opening goal, and was solid in the center of midfield throughout as Rising FC took another big step toward the postseason.
Phoenix Rising FC at Seattle Sounders FC 2 – September 20, 10:30 p.m. ET, Starfire Stadium
Real Monarchs SLC vs. Orange County SC – September 22, 9 p.m. ET, Rio Tinto Stadium