Phoenix Rising FC (18-4-5) secured top seed in the Pacific Division and a first-round home playoff match with a 1-0 win Saturday in Orange County.
Darren Mattocks scored the lone goal of the match for Rising. The defending Western Conference Champions picked up a regular-season victory in Orange County for the first time since August 7, 2016. Andre Rawls finished the match with fives saves to produce Phoenix’s ninth clean sheet of the season and its first since August 21.
After playing the last three matches on the road, the Pacific Division Champions return home to Wild Horse Pass to take on Oakland Roots SC on October 9. Phoenix remains unbeaten at home, where it boasts a 10-0-3 record and has outscored opponents 38-10.
Oakland (9-11-7) has dramatically stepped up its game in the last few months. After starting the year with only one win in its first 13 matches, Oakland has gone 8-3-3 since August 14. Roots now sit fourth in the Pacific Division, clinging to a playoff spot. LA Galaxy II, Sacramento Republic and Tacoma Defiance all are within four points of Oakland, meaning Roots will enter Saturday's match at Wild Horse Pass with plenty of urgency.
"We know they're going to be extremely hungry and aggressive," said Rising Head Coach Rick Schantz. "They want to play. They're a good team. They've got some good players. We're going to have to be extremely sharp and strong, and ready for the match."
It will be the fourth and final matchup between the two teams. While Rising won the first two games, the Roots responded with a 3-1 victory in the last meeting on August 25. That loss ended a 10-game unbeaten streak for Phoenix.
Rising heads back out on the road for two matches next Wednesday (Orange County) and Saturday (Las Vegas) with one eye on Tampa Bay and El Paso. If Phoenix can continue to preform well heading into playoffs, it has a shot at claiming the regular-season championship and securing home-field advantage throughout the postseason.
"This is what we expect from our players at Phoenix Rising," said Schantz. "When it gets to be this time of year, all of our guys understand that this is when you pick it up another notch. This is the time of year we love in Arizona."