It’s not often that teams get to play each other in back-to-back games in USL Championship, especially when the deadlock couldn’t be broken in the first match.
But Phoenix Rising FC couldn’t take advantage of the rematch against Orange County SC on Saturday night, as PRFC fell 1-0 in Irvine, California.
However, it wasn’t a lack of creativity or playmaking that plagued Rising on the night, but rather a shortcoming when it came to clinical finishing. Of Rising’s 13 total shots, only one was on target, as Phoenix failed to really test Orange County goalkeeper Frederik Due.
Rising forward Santi Moar — who was making the first start of his PRFC career — managed to hit the crossbar, but those don’t count as “on target” as a shot must be on track to go in the net to be counted as such.
But unfortunately for the Spaniard, his shot off the woodwork from point-blank wasn’t even his biggest contribution to the match.
After having already picked up a yellow in the 9th minute, Moar lost his cool in a moment of madness. Following a free kick awarded to Orange County, Moar ran over to a ball that was sitting on the sideline. An OCSC coach on the other side of the sideline boards picked up the ball and tossed it to where the free kick was to be taken.
The Spaniard then pushed the Orange County coach, which resulted in a second yellow and a sending off — leaving Phoenix Rising a man down for the entirety of the second half.
A look at why Santi Moar received a second yellow:
— Jake Anderson (@jwa1994) July 26, 2020
The red marks the second red card in as many games for PRFC after Owusu-Ansah Kontoh was sent off at the very end of the first match between these two sides this season.
One concern coming into the match was the pitch condition, as last week’s contest between the two sides featured a field that was burnt from fertilizer, painted green for TV and not watered prior to kickoff.
“Orange County did a lot of work on the field this week,” Phoenix Rising GM Bobby Dulle said of the pitch prior to Saturday’s match. “It is better than last match. It is softer and has not been painted green.”
But for all the chaos surrounding the pitch and red card, the game was actually open for the taking for both sides.
However, neither side was able to grab the match by the neck due to poor shooting and finishing, as the two sides managed to only muster a combined three shots on target out of a total of 25. One of those off-target shots included a penalty that was sent over the bar by OC midfielder Aodhan Quinn after an unlucky deflection hit Rising defender Darnell King’s extended out hand in the box.
“No excuses. We must stay humble. OC is a very good team,” manager Rick Schantz tweeted after the game. “Looking forward to seeing them in Phoenix. We will work hard and I will be better.”
Orange County forward Sean “Ugo” Okoli was able to capture the only goal of the match in the 20th minute. After Quinn played a long ball for Okoli, the goalscorer was able to beat PRFC center back Corey Whelan for pace and slotted his shot passed Zac Lubin and into the back of the net.
But the loss wasn’t the only defeat on the night.
Due to San Diego’s 2-1 victory over Las Vegas and Los Dos’ 1-0 win over Sacramento on Saturday, Phoenix drops from first place in Group B to third place (top two make it out).
However, PRFC has a game in hand on group-leaders San Diego — meaning a win would put Phoenix ahead of San Diego, as Rising would win the tiebreaker via goal differential (first tiebreaker is wins).
#USL Championship Group B:
1⃣SD: 10 points (3-1-1)
2⃣LA: 9 points (3-0-1)
3⃣PHX: 7 points (2-1-1)
4⃣OC: 5 points (1-2-0)
5⃣LV: 1 point (0-1-1)
— Jake Anderson (@jwa1994) July 26, 2020
- Orange County was once again without forward Thomas Enevoldsen, who was in Denmark for the birth of his child during the July 16 match.
- The 1-0 loss marks the first time Phoenix Rising has been shut out in the regular season since April of 2019.
Phoenix Rising returns to action on Aug. 1 as the club hosts El Paso Locomotive FC at Casino Arizona Field.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. and will be audio broadcasted live on ESPN 620 AM, ArizonaSports.com and on the new Arizona Sports app.