Photo courtesy Mark Guthrel / Saint Louis FC
FENTON, Mo. – Phoenix Rising FC broke a two-game downturn with a 3-1 victory against Saint Louis FC at Toyota Stadium – Saint Louis as goals early in either half paved the way to second place in the USL’s Western Conference standings on Wednesday night. Phoenix struck in just the sixth minute as space opened up for Chris Cortez to rifle home a finish from 25 yards that flew high into the net for the visitors. Saint Louis’ Corey Hertzog almost hit back with a spectacular finish of his own in the 18th minute, his looping first-time finish from 35 yards going just wide of the right post, and Hertzog was denied again eight minutes before halftime as Rising FC goalkeeper Carl Woszczynski narrowed the angle well to save after the STLFC forward got in behind Phoenix’s back line. The visitors doubled their lead four minutes into the second half off a free kick as Solomon Asante curled a finish into the top-left corner of the net, and Phoenix added to its lead in the 68th minute when Jason Johnson found space in the penalty area for a turning shot that found the right corner. STLFC hit back with 16 minutes to go as Seth Rudolph scored off a corner with his first touch after coming on as a second half-substitute, and Lewis Hilton almost produced a second in the 82nd minute with a free kick that was turned away by a diving save from Woszczynski, but Saint Louis’ late efforts couldn’t produce a comeback as Phoenix held on for all three points.
6’ – PHX – Chris Cortez (Solomon Asante)
49’ – PHX – Solomon Asante
68’ – PHX – Jason Johnson (Amadou Dia)
74’ – STL – Seth Rudolph (Lewis Hilton)
Three Things That Matter:
1. Coming off back-to-back defeats, Phoenix Rising FC needed the sort of performance it put in on Wednesday night to move back into second place in the Western Conference ahead of a break in the schedule over the upcoming week. Getting an outstanding early goal by Chris Cortez to get things going gave the visitors a major boost, and Solomon Asante’s perfectly-placed free kick early in the second gave the visitors a cushion it was hard to see them relinquishing. There’s still a gap to Real Monarchs SLC at the top, but Phoenix made it more bridgeable.
2. As evidenced by his audacious effort in the 18th minute on Wednesday night, there’s no lack of confidence still for Saint Louis forward Corey Hertzog, but until Seth Rudolph’s consolation goal with 16 minutes to it was another frustrating night for STLFC’s attack overall as Phoenix goalkeeper Carl Woszczynski looked sharp in his return to the Rising FC net. With only one goal this season, Hertzog is looking for a break that could turn his and the club’s fortunes around, but the side’s third loss in the past four outings makes Saturday’s game with the Swope Park Rangers that much more important to start a turnaround.
3. Prior to this season, Rising FC forward Chris Cortez has never been a major contender for the USL Golden Boot, but with his sixth goal of the season on Wednesday night he is now only one shot of his single-season career high and two off the lead held by the Swope Park Rangers’ Kharlton Belmar. With the talent in the Rising FC attacking contingent Cortez will continue to have to fight for minutes this season, but he certainly appears to have earned the chance at a career year as the rest of the season progresses.
USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Solomon Asante, Phoenix Rising FC – Asante picked up his fourth assist of the season on Cortez’s opening goal and then put home a great free kick early in the second half to play a key role in Rising FC’s victory.
Saint Louis FC vs. Swope Park Rangers – June 2, 8:30 p.m. ET, Toyota Stadium – Saint Louis
Phoenix Rising FC at Sacramento Republic FC – June 9, 10:30 p.m. ET, Papa Murphy’s Park