Photo courtesy Michael Rincon / Phoenix Rising FC
Since officially signing with Phoenix Rising FC late last December, Solomon Asante has taken the league by storm. Announced on Wednesday as retuning to the club for the 2019 USL Championship campaign, the 28-year-old was a key figure as Rising FC produced its finest season in club history, earning the Western Conference Championship and a place at the 2018 USL Cup before falling to Louisville City FC.
At just 5-foot-2, Asante is among the more diminutive players in the USL Championship, but that didn’t stop him from racking up 14 goals and a team-leading nine assists in his first season in Phoenix. Those numbers earned Asante a place on the 2018 USL Championship All-League First Team, and fans hopeful that in 2019 he’ll help lead Rising FC one step further to claim the USL Cup.
Here are five standout moments from the Ghanaian international’s first year with Rising FC.
The night ended up belonging to fellow Rising FC standout Chris Cortez, who notched a hat trick in Phoenix’s 4-1 victory against Energy FC, but Asante made his presence felt in Rising FC’s home opener with a stunning opening goal just before the half-hour mark to introduce himself to the club’s supporters. A perfectly-struck finish from 20 yards caromed off the underside of the crossbar and in, part of a three-game scoring streak to start the regular season.
Asante proved able to come through in the clutch for Phoenix regularly throughout the 2018 campaign and did so in emphatic fashion to earn his side a 2-2 draw against defending Western Conference champion the Swope Park Rangers. Moments after the visitors had grabbed the lead with a minute to go through Kharlton Belmar, Asante’s low shot to the left corner from Billy Forbes’ flicked set-up pulled Rising FC back on level terms and set off celebrations around the stadium.
With nine assists to his credit, Asante was as much a set-up man as a finisher for Rising FC in the 2018 season, and one of his best came late on against the Foxes to earn 10-man Rising FC a 1-1 draw. Down a man for more than an hour after Amadou Dia’s red card, Phoenix was looking for an equalizer late against its visitors, and a smooth piece of control and slid through-ball by Asante provided the opportunity for Alessandro Riggi to finish in the 90th minute.
For all his proficiency with set pieces – Asante recorded 43 key passes from set plays, fourth-most in the USL Championship in 2018 – the playmaker only scored once directly from a free kick himself, but that one goal was an absolute beauty. With Rising FC already ahead on the road against Saint Louis FC early in the second half, Asante produced a perfect curling free kick from 25 yards that picked out the top-left corner on the way to a 3-1 victory.
It always feels odd to include a game that ended up being won by the opponent in a list like these, but Asante’s hat trick against Orange County that almost ended up rallying the hosts back from a four-goal deficit was one of the best individual performances of the season. After OCSC’s trio of standouts – fellow All-League First Team selections Thomas Enevoldsen and Aodhan Quinn, and forward Michael Seaton – had staked the visitors to a major lead, Asante won and then converted a penalty kick in the 68th minute. Five minutes later he had his second, flicking home a low cross by Devante Dubose from the right, and in the fourth minute of stoppage time he completed his hat trick with a low shot to the right corner. It was too little, too late, but showed the spirit that Asante brought to the side throughout the 2018 campaign.