Still Rising: Phoenix 2, Seattle 0Photo courtesy Phoenix Rising FC/Michael Rincon

Still Rising: Phoenix 2, Seattle 0

Continuing its race to the playoffs in the final third of the USL season, Phoenix Rising FC took all three points in a gritty contest with Seattle Sounders FC 2. Amadou Dia scored the game winner, taking advantage of a loose ball after a shot by AJ Gray.

A nifty ball over the top to Alessandro Riggi nearly got things started in the 2nd minute, but Riggi’s cross was thwarted by the Seattle defense.

A moment later, Seattle mounted an attack of its own, with Henry Wingo charging down the right side of Rising’s wing and squaring to Aaron Kovar, but the Sounders first team loanee put his first-time effort into the side netting.

S2’s first shot on goal came in the 12th, with Josh Cohen handily collecting an ambitious effort from distance by Felix Chenkam. The match was Cohen’s first since July 29, after which he was sidelined with an injury.

In the 17th, Rising FC’s Jason Johnson got loose down the left flank, but was perhaps too unselfish with his cross, turning the ball over to Seattle in Tyler Miller’s box. Johnson would be played into the box by Chris Cortez in the 19th with a handsome flick, but his effort would go wide.

The Firebirds had the crowd on their feet looking for the first goal of the match when Cortez was running free towards net, with Victor Vasquez’ perfectly looped cross flying towards him. Cortez’ header was ably saved by Miller, however.

Wingo would threaten again in the 27th, his speed creating just enough space ahead of Rising’s Kody Wakasa to send in a sharp cross. The ball flew past the outstretched arms of Cohen, but Vasquez was on the scene to clear.

Seattle would continue to pressure Cohen, with a poor back-pass and an S2 corner kick creating back-to-back opportunities for the visitors.

In the 50th, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Cortez looked to hook up as they did on Rising’s first goal a week ago, when the Premier League veteran again put a corner kick on his teammate’s head, but Cortez’ shot was directly at Miller.

Johnson controlled in the area on 60 minutes, but his shot was blocked in front of the six-yard box. Phoenix passing and shooting in the final third was off target for much of the match.

In the 62nd, freshly substituted Seattle forward Seyi Adekoya took aim at Cohen’s net but went just wide.

Seattle’s Zach Mathers wasted a perfect chance, when he appeared to slip in front of goal, sending his shot high over an empty Phoenix net.

Miscommunication in the Seattle box cost Phoenix an otherwise well-constructed chance, and moments later, Cortez sized up another incoming ball with his head, this time from Wakasa, but put another shot on Miller, who saved.
The final substitute of the match for Phoenix, Gray made his presence felt in short order, dribbling into the Seattle box and delivering a powerful shot into his mark. The deflection flew perfectly to Dia, who put his header perfectly past a helpless Miller. The goal stood despite frantic appeals from Seattle for an offside call.

On 89 minutes, Rising likely could have been awarded a penalty, when Gray was slide tackled in the Seattle box, but no call came.

Cohen made a diving save in stoppage time, but the even more interesting was the second goal. Johnson spied Miller standing over the ball well out of his box, sprinted at the ‘keeper, and won the ball before scoring on an empty net in emphatic fashion in front of the supporters section.

Phoenix Rising FC (9-7-6) has a short break before they host Orange County SC on Wednesday, Sept. 6. Seattle Sounders FC 2 (9-15-2) returns home to face Reno 1868 FC on Saturday, Sept. 9.

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