SACRAMENTO, California (Saturday, November 4) – Phoenix Rising FC advanced to the USL Championship Final after coming from behind to defeat Sacramento Republic, 2-1, tonight at Heart Health Park.
The team will travel to Charleston to face the Battery Sunday, November 12 at 5 p.m. on ESPN2.
Despite playing on the road, Phoenix held a ridiculous, 70-30 advantage in possession through the 25th minute of the match as both teams cautiously defended and produced zero shots on goal in the opening stanza.
Sacramento found the back of the net with its first shot, following a turnover in midfield. Two passes got the ball to Republic striker, Russell Cicerone, who spun one direction, then the other before hitting a hopeful shot towards the back post. The quick transition crossed up Phoenix goalkeeper Rocco Rios Novo and the shot eluded the left hand of the goalkeeper before settling into the far side netting to make it 1-0 in the 31st minute.
Rising nearly got one back in the 38th minute when Panos Armenakas ran at a defender on Phoenix’s right flank. Entering the box, Armenakas faked right, then went left before trying to beat Sacramento goalkeeper Daniel Vitiello to his right side but a defender stepped in at the last second to block the shot. The resulting attempt trickled to the feet of the goalkeeper for an easy save.
Rising began to apply pressure in search of an equalizer near the 64th minute, when Dariusz Formella got a look at goal. Phoenix earned another corner moments later and head coach Juan Guerra brought on attacking substitutes Renzo Zambrano and Uzo.
Phoenix equalized in the 80th minute when Rising earned a free kick on the left flank. Zambrano curled a cross to the back post where a slew of players converged, but it was Carlos Harvey who steered the ball into the back of the net any way possible to make it 1-1.
Riding the momentum of that goal, Rising continued to press, never allowing a second shot on goal defensively and former Sacramento Republic midfielder Emil Cuello ripped the hearts of his former team out in the second minute of stoppage time. Cuello won the ball back 30 yards from goal and never hesitated, cutting slightly to his left before smashing a knuckling shot that zipped past the goalkeeper’s ear and bulged the net to make it a 2-1, Western Conference Final.
SR – Russell Cicerone (Nick Ross) 31
PHX – Carlos Harvey 80
PHX – Emil Cuello 90+2
PHX – Mo Traore (caution) 17
PHX – Darnell King (caution) 40
PHX – Eddie Munjoma (caution) 69
SR – Keko (caution) 71
PHX – John Stenberg (caution) 88
PHX – Carlos Harvey (caution) 90+5
PHX – Dariusz Formella (caution) 90+6
Phoenix Rising FC – Rocco Rios Novo, Alejandro Fuenmayor, John Stenberg, Mo Traore, Darnell King (Uzo 67) Eddie Munjoma (Manuel Arteaga 74), Jose Andres Hernandez (Renzo Zambrano 67), Panos Armenakas (Emil Cuello 74), Carlos Harvey, Danny Trejo, Dariusz Formella (Erickson 80).
Substitutes Not Used: Patrick Rakovsky, Daniel Krutzen.
Sacramento Republic – Daniel Vitiello, Jared Timmer, Shane Wiedt, Jack Gurr, Conor Donovan, Damia Viader (Lee Desmond 72), Arnold López (Matt LaGrassa 77), Russell Cicerone, Luis Felipe (Rodrigo Lopez 59), Nick Ross, Keko Lewis (Cristian Parano 77).
Substitutes not Used: Carlos Saldaña, Aldair Sanchez, Luther Archimède.