Photo courtesy Michael Rincon / Phoenix Rising FC
PHOENIX – Phoenix Rising FC and the Swope Park Rangers each scored in the final two minutes to end in a 2-2 draw before a crowd of 6,300 fans at the Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex on Saturday night. Phoenix’s James Musa had the first clear effort on goal as he forced a save from former SPR teammate Adrian Zendejas with a long-range shot in the 20th minute, while Billy Forbes blazed over the crossbar after cleverly creating space three minutes before the halftime break. Swope Park possessed but was unable to produce an end product in the first half as both Kharlton Belmar and Graham Smith saw chances miss the target. The visitors went close in the 57th minute when Wan Kuzain fired a volley from the top of the penalty area just wide of the right post after a punched clearance from a corner kick, but nine minutes later Rising FC took the lead as a move began by Jason Johnson on the right passed through Solomon Asante to Forbes for a first-time finish into the left corner from eight yards. The Rangers rallied with 20 minutes to go as a deep corner kick found Belmar for a cushioned header finish for his sixth goal of the season, and Belmar struck again with two minutes to go on a snaking run from midfield that saw him finish to the left corner. A minute later there was a final twist, however, as Phoenix leveled through a fierce shot by Asante that picked out the left corner to leave the sides all square.
66’ – PHX – Billy Forbes (Solomon Asante)
70’ – SPR – Kharlton Belmar (Felipe Hernandez)
88’ – SPR – Kharlton Belmar (Rodrigo Saravia)
89’ – PHX – Solomon Asante (Billy Forbes)
Three Things That Matter:
1. Games between Phoenix Rising FC and the Swope Park Rangers have never lacked for drama, and Saturday night’s contest was no exception as the game sprang to life in the final half-hour with both teams holding the lead before each settling for a point apiece. After last season’s penalty shootout victory for the Rangers in the postseason, say nothing of Didier Drogba’s late heroics on the road in the regular season, this matchup always seems to find a way to live up to expectations.
2. Solomon Asante went from playmaker to lifesaver for Rising FC on the night, cleverly setting up Billy Forbes for the opening goal of the game before lashing home what proved to be the equalizer a minute after Phoenix had gone behind late. The diminutive Ghanaian has been an impact player for Phoenix since his offseason arrival both in his playmaking and finishing, and on Saturday he saved a valuable point for the hosts against a quality opponent.
3. Kharlton Belmar was set to become the hero on the night for the Rangers with a stupendous individual goal that gave his side the lead with two minutes to go, only for Swope Park to be denied victory by Asante’s impressive long-range strike. That shouldn’t diminish Belmar’s performance, however, as he continued to position himself among the top echelon of forwards currently in the league.
USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Kharlton Belmar, Swope Park Rangers – Belmar scored his sixth and seventh goals of the season, but in addition connected the Rangers’ attack well throughout as he completed 36 of 42 passes and finished with five shots overall.
Phoenix Rising FC vs. Fresno FC – April 28, 10 p.m. ET, Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex
Swope Park Rangers vs. Saint Louis FC – April 28, 8:30 p.m. ET, Shawnee Mission South District Stadium