Phoenix Rising FC fell 2-1 in stoppage time to the visiting San Francisco Deltas on Wednesday night, ending Phoenix’s quest for a second-ever appearance in the fourth round of the US Open Cup. San Francisco advances to a date with Major League Soccer’s San Jose Earthquakes.
It’s a disappointing result for Phoenix and its fans, who are growing somewhat accustomed to giving up one goal too many, and often with terrible timing. “We don’t have a shutout yet this season,” Assistant Coach Rick Schantz said after the match. “We still gotta work on that.”
The match got off to a quick start. In the fourth minute, the Deltas recorded the game’s first shot on goal, when Michael Stephens ripped a breakaway liner that Phoenix ‘keeper Josh Cohen denied with a sliding kick.
A moment later, Phoenix made San Francisco ‘keeper Steward Ceus work when Jason Johnson looped a nifty ball toward a wide-open Omar Bravo near the six-yard box. Ceus intercepted, though.
The game’s pace was fast and furious in the early going, with both sides creating problems for the other, but bouts of sustained possession were in short supply.
A scary moment came in the 19th, when Johnson served another back-door cross for Bravo. The ball was pushed wide by the former Mexican international, but Ceus went instantly to the ground with an apparent injury. The goalkeeper was down for several minutes but stayed in the game.
Rising FC would control action thereafter, as Johnson and Bravo continually threatened the Deltas’ penalty area. A 35th-minute free kick from Bravo was put over the bar by a Peter Ramage header.
Miguel Timm and JJ Greer each prevented promising breaks by the Deltas with professional fouls in the midfield, but San Francisco was otherwise held mostly at bay.
Phoenix sniffed a lead with the last kick of the first half, when Shaun Wright-Phillips put Bravo well through the backline with a scintillating pass. With the flag down, Bravo shot past Ceus for the apparent lead, but with smoke billowing from the supporter section, the assistant referee finally ruled that Bravo was offside, much to the crowd’s chagrin.
The Deltas began the second half with the better of possession, but decent shots for both sides were hard to come by.
Later, Bravo would thrill the crowd twice in short order, when he put a ball wide off a scissor kick, and subsequently freed AJ Gray with a backheel in the box. Gray nearly found the end of Johnson’s streaking run, and the game remained scoreless.
The deadlock was broken in the 82nd when San Francisco’s Kyle Bekker hit a 19-yard free kick that deflected off the head of Ramage and past a helpless Cohen. The lead wouldn’t last long, as Ramage made to atone with a diving header attempt in the box that was stopped short by a foul. The referee pointed to the spot and Bravo sent Ceus the wrong way for his first goal in a Rising FC kit.
The Deltas would seal the deal late in stoppage time, however, when a broken play in front of the Phoenix goal left San Francisco striker Tommy Heinemann wide open for the easy winner.
“I don’t think (we were) good enough as a team,” Timm said after the game about the goal, “and hopefully that doesn’t happen again.”
Phoenix is out of the US Open Cup, but they are back on the road and back in USL action next Tuesday, June 6th, when they take on OKC Energy FC at Historic Taft Stadium.