Phoenix Rising FC earns first clean sheet, draws Reno 0-0Photo courtesy: David Calvert/Reno 1868 FC

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Phoenix Rising FC earns first clean sheet, draws Reno 0-0

In a match hotly anticipated by both sides, Phoenix Rising FC and Reno 1868 FC played to an exciting 0-0 draw in front of a good crowd at Greater Neva

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In a match hotly anticipated by both sides, Phoenix Rising FC and Reno 1868 FC played to an exciting 0-0 draw in front of a good crowd at Greater Nevada Field. Phoenix was surely interested in some revenge for a 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Reno in April, and fans of 1868 were out in force to see the King himself, Didier Drogba.

Following a familiar trend of the past few games, Drogba was involved in the action early, taking advantage of a third-minute right-side run by AJ Gray, but firing wide left.

The game was exciting from this point forward, but 1868 FC got the better of the early going. Reno talisman Dane Kelly took a long rip in the fifth minute that forced Phoenix goalkeeper Josh Cohen into a strong save. Kelly is the all-time leading scorer in the United Soccer League, and he sits comfortably in second this season in league play.

In the tenth, Rising FC’s Blair Gavin sent in a beautiful outswinging corner that defender Peter Ramage got a patented header on, but the ball went frustratingly wide. Forward Jason Johnson would follow that with a quick strike directly at Reno netminder and Arizona native, Matt Bersano.

Phoenix right back Kody Wakasa was battling with Kelly in the 23rd, but Kelly managed to lose the Phoenix rookie and unleash a powerful shot that Ramage got a foot on before it was smothered by Cohen.

In the 31st, Johnson collided with Bersano and had to exit the game briefly. He would be replaced by Omar Bravo at halftime.

Moments later, Reno’s Antoine Hoppenot took advantage of an innocuous touch from Wakasa in the Phoenix box, and went to the turf, prompting the referee to award a penalty. Kelly stepped up to take, drove low and to the left, but Cohen was there to deny the shot. Wakasa beat Hoppenot to the rebound and put the ball out of bounds.

Cohen was the hero again in the 44th, as Reno’s Darwin Espinal let rip from outside the box. The Phoenix ‘keeper just got a fingertip to the curling effort, redirecting the ball mercifully onto the woodwork.

Early in the second half, Drogba had the chance to put his club ahead when he found himself one-on-one with the defender, but couldn’t control for a shot.

In the 67th, Chris Wehan put a beautiful free kick into the Phoenix box, but Kelly’s header went just wide. A minute later, Kelly had another opportunity, when he beat Phoenix’s Amadou Dia. Before he could shoot on Cohen however, Wakasa arrived to make a strong tackle.

Drogba gave Reno fans a scare in the 74th when he dipped a long free kick just over the crossbar. In the 79th it was Shaun Wright-Phillips who had a chance on Reno’s goal, but his cross to Eder Arreola was off the mark.

The teams would trade several more chances before settling for the draw. For Phoenix, the result is not terribly disappointing, as it was their first clean sheet of 2017, well-earned by Cohen, who put in a Man-of-the-Match performance with six saves.

Phoenix Rising FC (5-5-3) travels to Orange County SC on July 8, while Reno 1868 FC (6-4-4) will have a short turnaround, as they face LA Galaxy II at home on Monday, July 3.