Phoenix Rising FC (19-4-5) earned its second consecutive shutout and a 1-0 win vs. Oakland Roots last weekend at Wild Horse Pass. Darren Mattocks scored the lone goal of the match, netting his fifth in only eight appearances with the club. Phoenix remains unbeaten at home (11-0-3), as well as unbeaten when (14-0-4) when Andre Rawls starts in goal.
Four games now remain in the regular season, as Rising looks to lock up home field advantage through the entirety of the playoffs with a first place finish in the league standings. With 62 points, Phoenix has a one-point lead over Tampa Bay, who also has four games left on its schedule.
Rising will travel to Orange County on Wednesday and Las Vegas on Saturday, before closing out the season with two games at Wild Hose Pass. While Phoenix has gone 2-0-1 against Orange County this season, the wins have been close affairs - all were decided by a single goal.
Orange County comes into Wednesday's match having lost two straight. The club sits third in the Pacific Division with 37 points. OCSC has not clinched a playoff spot yet, with LA, Oakland, Tacoma, and Sacramento all within striking distance.
Phoenix has been dominant on offense all year, leading the league in goals (60) and shots (560), but its defense has been the reason for the club's last two wins, which came via shutout on Oct. 2 in Orange County and at home on Oct. 9.
Rising conceded 10 goals in six matches during September, but has yet to allow a goal this month - a promising trend according to the proverb "defense wins champinships," and a team heading into a postseason with a strong case of unfinished business.
"We're officially getting into playoff soccer mode," said Rising goalkeeper Andre Rawls. "We're down to four games left. It's crunch time. This isn't the time to be letting the foot off the gas. This is the time to be perfecting it. This is the time when winning is everything. Winning our individual battles is everything. As a core defensively, if we win our individual battles, we keep a clean sheet. We've proven that."