CHARLESTON, SC (Saturday, November 12) – Phoenix Rising FC are USL Champions after defeating the Charleston Battery, 3-2, in kicks from the mark after 120 minutes could not separate the sides from a 1-1 draw at Patriots Point.
Rising and Charleston traded glancing blows and corner kicks in the opening 20 minutes of the match, but neither team could put a shot on goal until the Battery’s Nick Markanich sent in a cross from the right flank in the 22nd minute. Phoenix goalkeeper Rocco Rios Novo was alert and made an easy first save of the match the keep the match scoreless early.
The match settled down for the next 15 minutes, drawing Phoenix into a false sense of confidence before Charleston’s Mark Segbers came free down the left flank. Segbers collected the pass in-behind the Rising defense and centered the ball for Nick Markanich, who cracked a first touch shot hard into the far corner of the net to make it 1-0 Battery.
Rising came out of halftime looking more like itself. Daruisz Formella broke free down the left flank in the 54th minute and nearly found Danny Trejo with a centering pass, but the two were just a step off. Moments later, Rising earned a corner kick and set piece 40-yards from goal, but once again could not get on the same page to complete a series of passes with a shot on goal.
Referee Elton García pointed to the spot, awarding Phoenix a penalty kick in the 66th minute, but the spot kick disappeared after a lengthy delay and long conversation with the assistant referee.
Two clutch saves from Rios Novo in the 84th and 85th minutes kept Rising in the match and hopes alive for a late equalizer.
It came late, and not too late.
Defender Mo Traore recycled the ball from an earlier cross and lined a ball back into the area, where center back John Stenberg rose above the crowd to smash a header past Battery goalkeeper Trey Muse to make it 1-1 just before the final whistle.
Erickson smashed a shot from distance on target in the 99th minute of the match, but Muse was alert and made an outstanding save, diving to his right side to keep the match locked at 1-1.
Emil Cuello let a shot rip in the 105th minute. It nearly snuck past Muse at the near post but the goalkeeper bodied the ball to the ground and smothered it. That’s as close as either team would come and the match was ushered into penalty kicks.
Charleston put away their first two kicks from the spot while Muse saved attempts from Cuello and Daniel Krutzen. Renzo Zambrano buried Phoenix’s third kick to make it 2-1, but Rising needed a save from Rios Novo desperately. They didn’t get it, but Charleston’s Leland Archer missed wide to the left side.
Erickson stepped up next for Phoenix and made it 2-2 with the Battery’s fourth kick coming. Rios Novo saved it, diving to his right side to block a shot by Chris Allen. Manuel Arteaga came up next for Phoenix and made it 3-2, beating Muse to the post to the goalkeeper’s left side. The final attempt came from Charleston’s Derek Dodson, who went to Novo’s right side. Rising’s goalkeeper guessed correctly and pushed Dodson wider than he intended. The ball skipped off the post and away from goal to give Rising its first USL Championship, 3-2, in penalty kicks.
CHR – Nick Markanich (Mark Segbers) 36
PHX – John Stenberg (Mo Traore) 90
PHX – Mo Traore (caution) 11
PHX – Carlos Harvey (caution) 72
CHL – Roberto Avila (caution) 72
PHX – Alejandro Fuenmayor (caution) 73
PHX – Emil Cuello (caution) 80
PHX – Renzo Zambrano (caution) 115
Phoenix Rising FC – Rocco Rios Novo, Alejandro Fuenmayor, John Stenberg (Daniel Krutzen 91), Mo Traore, Eddie Munjoma (Henry Uzochukwu 83), Darnell King (Erickson 58), Jose Andres Hernandez (Renzo Zambrano 58), Carlos Harvey, Panos Armenakas (Emil Cuello 71), Danny Trejo, Dariusz Formella (Manuel Arteaga 71).
Substitutes Not Used: Patrick Rakovsky.
Charleston Battery – Trey Muse, Tristan Trager (Beto Avila 63), Derek Dodson, Leland Archer, Juan Palma, Emilo Ycaza, Chris Allen, Augustine Williams, Nick Markanich, Mark Segbers (AJ Paterson 119), Arturo Rodriguez (Robbie Crawford 90).
Substitutes Not Used: Daniel Kuzemka, AJ Cochran, Andrew Booth, Piere Reedy.