Phoenix Rising FC (17-3-5, 56 points) officially became the first team in the USL Championship to qualify for the 2021 postseason with a 2-1 win over Tacoma Defiance on Saturday. Jon Bakero put in a goal off the bench, while Santi Moar scored the game-winner for Rising in the 90th minute of the match. It was Moar’s sixth consecutive match with a goal, just one shy of Solomon Asante's 2019 record of seven consecutive games.
Next up for Phoenix is LA Galaxy II in Los Angeles on Wednesday, September 29. The two clubs will meet for the fourth and final time this season, with Rising taking the first three games. While Rising won the first two matchups handily (3-0 and 5-0), it took an LA own-goal in the final seconds of stoppage time for Phoenix to secure a 4-3 victory in Los Angeles earlier this month.
Rising comes into the match on a six-game winning streak, its longest since winning 20 straight in a historic 2019 season. Phoenix brings another streak into the match, having won a club-best 13 straight regular-season games against Galaxy II.
Los Angeles, who sits in sixth place in the Pacific Division, is coming off victories over Oakland and Sacramento. Those wins were Los Dos' first consecutive wins of the season. LA has been a strong offensive team all season, tied for sixth in the league with 42 goals, but their struggles have come on the defensive end. LA has given up 46 goals - fourth-most in the league.
"This is a very good attacking team," said head coach Rick Schantz of Los Dos on Sept. 7. "They like to take shots. They like to be in one-on-one situations. They like to go forward but they've struggled a bit defensively."
LA Galaxy II's results have taken on a different look since giving up four goals in back-to-back loses to San Diego and Phoenix on Sept. 5 and Sept. 11. Since then, LA is 2-0-0 with consecutive shutout wins, meaning this second meeting between the clubs in LA in September may not be the same shootout-style match as the last game.