LA Galaxy II struck first, but just as in the first meeting with Phoenix Rising FC, the Firebirds would come back to defeat Los Dos 2-1. This game
LA Galaxy II struck first, but just as in the first meeting with Phoenix Rising FC, the Firebirds would come back to defeat Los Dos 2-1.
This game started fast, and stayed fast. Both teams were eager to set the tone, and each served up long balls aplenty. The defenses were unable to cope in the early going, and viewers were treated to some entertaining soccer.
In the third minute, Phoenix almost had to relive the nightmare scenario of an early deficit that doomed them against Reno and San Antonio. Ariel Lassiter broke free down the left, and while the Rising FC players called for offside, the Costa Rican striker bombed toward goal, but sent a hopeful cross to no one.
A moment later, Jason Johnson had a chance to turn the tables, but his angle was closed down by the LA defense, and his laser-strike inside the box was saved by Galaxy goalkeeper Clement Diop.
In the tenth, it was Johnson again drawing defenders, and shooting this time from well outside the box. His low effort was on target, but Diop’s diving save pushed the ball into the path of Phoenix striker Chris Cortez. Cortez kept the ball in play and dropped it to Eric Avila whose own shot went just over the bar.
The weak defense on both ends of the field eventually favored LA, as some soft coverage on Phoenix’s left side allowed a perfect cross into an unmarked Lassiter who easily put Galaxy II ahead 1-0.
Shaun Wright-Phillips earned an excellent free kick opportunity for Phoenix in the 22nd when he was taken down just outside the box by Hugo Arellano, who was shown yellow for his efforts. Cortez’s free kick sailed well high of the mark.
Phoenix would get back in the match when, in the 32nd minute, Wright-Phillips found Avila open at the top of the box. Avila would send the ball wide to Johnson before making a cutting run directly at the near post. Johnson threaded a scintillating ball to the right spot for Avila to beat Diop with the redirect, and level the score.
In the 59th, Matt Watson was sprung into the box by Wright-Phillips and put a shot just wide of net, but it wouldn’t end the threat. A moment later, Avila danced into the box with the ball at his feet, and after several savvy moves seemed destined to get a shot off, before he eventually was tripped up. Johnson stepped up and took a low, hard penalty that just skipped under the outstretched hand of Diop to give the Firebirds the 2-1 lead.
In the 69th, Lassiter gave the home crowd a thrill when he found space outside the box, but his rocket was fired directly at Rising FC ‘keeper Josh Cohen.
LA would get one more golden opportunity in the 89th, when Andre Zanga pounced on a failed clearance and forced Cohen into a circus save at his near post. Some tense moments of possession in the Phoenix area would follow, but Los Dos would not get off a shot.
Phoenix Rising FC will face the NASL’s San Francisco Deltas in a Wednesday Open Cup tie before traveling to Oklahoma City on June 6 to take on Energy FC. LA Galaxy II next flies to Seattle for a June 3 matchup with Sounders 2.