Photo courtesy Michael Rincon / Phoenix Rising FC
PHOENIX – Chris Cortez had a goal and two assists as Phoenix Rising FC took a 3-1 victory against Sacramento Republic FC in front of 5,693 fans at Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex on Saturday night. Rising FC almost scored 16 seconds in as a low cross by Jason Johnson came to Alessandro Riggi, but the winger shot over the crossbar. The hosts struck first in the 10th minute, however, as Shaun Wright-Phillips’ corner kick from the left found Chris Cortez at the near post to flick home a header. Cortez was denied by Republic FC goalkeeper Evan Newton in the 18th minute, while Sacramento’s Emrah Klimenta flashed a shot wide of the left post from 25 yards in Republic FC’s first good look at goal in the 32nd minute. Phoenix doubled its lead three minutes into the second half as a good combination between Cortez and Johnson set up the Jamaican for a low finish to the left corner, but Sacramento immediately hit back as an initial shot by Agustin Cazarez was parried by Rising FC goalkeeper Carl Woszczynski, but Trevin Caesar tapped home the rebound. Rising FC quickly regained its two-goal lead, though, as a half-cleared corner was sent back into the penalty area by Cortez, and Peter Ramage headed home. Riggi almost added a fourth for Phoenix soon after, only for Newton to make a big save for Republic FC, and Sacramento’s goalkeeper also tipped over a long-range effort by Matt Watson with 18 minutes to go. Caesar almost added a second for Republic FC with 12 minutes to go, only to find the side-netting, and Phoenix closed out the game late to take an important win for its USL Cup Playoffs pursuit.
10’ – PHX – Chris Cortez (Shaun Wright-Phillips)
48’ – PHX – Jason Johnson (Chris Cortez)
50’ – SAC – Trevin Caesar
52’ – PHX – Peter Ramage (Chris Cortez)
Three Things That Matter:
1. After back-to-back games in which it had victory snatched away at the death, Rising FC made sure of all three points in a performance that could be looked back at as an important one later in the season. As it typical, Rising FC had less possession, but with its speed going forward – led by Jamaican forward Jason Johnson – the hosts looked consistently more dangerous than Sacramento. The win moves Rising FC within three points of the teams sitting between sixth and eighth place on 33 points, with games in hand on all three.
2. Didier Drogba’s absence due to injury has been mitigated for the past two games by the play of Chris Cortez, who is starting to hit his best form after suffering from an injury himself earlier in the season. Cortez’s second goal in as many games opened the scoring, and the forward provided two good assists as well as he showed off his range of ability. Cortez has now scored 24 goals in the USL regular season in his career, and may hold one of the keys to Phoenix earning its first trip to the postseason as the regular season comes down the stretch.
3. Sacramento rallied well on Wednesday night against the Swope Park Rangers to earn a point, but when it seemed the side had shifted the momentum in its favor through Trevin Caesar’s 50th-minute goal to give Republic FC a chance at taking something from the contest, Rising FC’s quick response effectively doused those hopes. Republic FC is still in solid position in fifth place in the USL Western Conference, but getting back on a winning track when it returns home next Saturday to host Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC is going to be important.
USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Chris Cortez, Phoenix Rising FC – Cortez had a goal, two assists and three other key passes to lead Rising FC to an important victory in its pursuit of the postseason.
Phoenix Rising FC vs. Seattle Sounders FC 2 – September 2, 10:30 p.m. ET, Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex
Sacramento Republic FC vs. Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC – September 2, 10:30 p.m. ET, Papa Murphy’s Park