Phoenix Rising FC got back in the win column on Saturday night, handily defeating Sacramento Republic FC 3-1 in front of 5,693 fans at Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex. Chris Cortez shined for the Firebirds, logging the game’s first goal and assists on two others.
Less than 20 seconds into the match, an aggressive run down the left by Jason Johnson ended with Alessandro Riggi sending a strong shot over the goal of former Firebird Evan Newton.
Rising FC would break through in the tenth minute, however, when Shaun Wright-Phillips placed a perfectly whipped in-swinging corner kick on the head of Cortez, who towered over his mark and beat Newton to the far post for the 1-0 lead.
“Excellent delivery,” Cortez said after the match. “It made my life really easy, all I have to do was glance a header in. It’s tons of pace and exactly right on my head so I don’t have to do a lot on it.”
In the 32nd, Republic’s Montenegro international Emrah Klimenta found space on Rising’s left side and fired just wide of a diving Carl Woszczynski’s net. Sacramento fielded a 5-3-2 formation relying heavily on the wing play of Klimenta and left back James Kiffe.
Republic’s first shot on goal came in the 41st, when Wilson Kneeshaw sent a deflected, long-range effort directly to a grateful Woszczynski.
In the 44th, Wright-Phillips gave the home crowd a thrill with a sharp effort on goal, but Newton was equal to the task.
Former Firebird Tyler Blackwood took aim on the Phoenix net two minutes into the second half, and went wide, but moments later, Rising would double its lead. Johnson made a driving run down the center of the pitch and laid a beautiful ball to the left side of the Sacramento box, Cortez chased it down, and one-timed it right back to Johnson in the middle, who was wide open for the easy score.
“We haven’t really scored that early from the start of the season,” said Johnson, “so that was a big push for us. For me to get a second goal so early in the second half that helped us a lot and the momentum of the team.”
It would not last long, however, as Republic’s Agustine Cazarez had his shot saved by Woszczynski, only to see the rebound put away by halftime substitution Trevin Caesar.
Phoenix answered right back in the 52nd, when Cortez found the cranium of Peter Ramage, who put away the game’s final tally. The powerful goal was the English center back’s second of the season.
Sacramento dominated possession on the night, but failed to find a consistent outlet in front of goal. Despite the quick goal allowed in the second half, the overall performance was one of the most complete defensive efforts from Phoenix all season.
After the match, Phoenix head coach Patrice Carteron said, “We could have scored more goals, and defensively we had good intensity as well so I am really happy for our fans because they deserve those three points tonight and they deserve that kind of game, so we are progressing step by step and I am really proud tonight about our game.”
Phoenix Rising FC stays home to face Seattle Sounders FC 2, Saturday, Sept. 2. Sacramento Republic FC returns to Papa Murphy’s Park to host Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC, also on Sept. 2.