Rooney brace leads Phoenix Rising past LA Galaxy II

Alessandro Riggi, right, warms up prior to Phoenix Rising FC's match against LA Galaaxy II Apr. 8, 2017 at Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex in Scottsdale, Arizona. Photo by Chad Smith/Firebird Rising

Alessandro Riggi, right, warms up prior to Phoenix Rising FC’s match against LA Galaxy II Apr. 8, 2017 at Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex in Scottsdale, Arizona. Photo by Chad Smith/Firebird Rising

A brace from midfielder Luke Rooney was all Phoenix Rising FC needed as Rising registered its first win of the season with a 2-1 victory over LA Galaxy Saturday night in front of 6,330 at Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex.

“What I liked about tonight, we go a goal down, we come back and deserved to be up, get a goal down and come back and win,” Phoenix Rising FC head coach Frank Yallop said. “Really proud of the guys, I thought they really stuck together well, didn’t get on each other’s backs, kept playing, and in the end got what they deserved.”

Phoenix Rising had an early chance in the second minute as midfielder Shaun Wright-Phillips crossed the bar into the box, where it just missed the head of forward Chris Cortez.

Two minutes later, on a counter, Alessandro Riggi tried to get it into forward Omar Bravo, but his shot was denied by the last defender.

Phoenix Rising created another chance in the eighth minute when Riggi turned on a ball just outside the box but skied a shot over the net.

In the 12th minute, Phoenix attacked again with a cross from Victor Vasquez to a diving Bravo, but it was saved by Galaxy II keeper Jon Kempin.

In the 20th minute, Phoenix was on the attack again. Midielder Luke Rooney’s shot was blocked by the defender but fell to the feet on forward Chris Cortez, whose blast was saved by Kempin. Two minutes later, Wright-Phillips blasted it from 25 yards out only to hit the crossbar.

The Galaxy finally had its first chance in the 27th minute as Raul Mendiola beat the offside trap and dribbled a ball across the face of the net, but it was cleared by a Rising defender.

Phoenix continued the attack in the 30th minute when a Bravo cross found Rooney in the middle of the box, but his shot was saved by Kempin. The Galaxy turned a counter and Ethan Zubak got a weak shot on goal saved by Josh Cohen.

“I thought the first thirty minutes was really a joy to watch,” Yallop said. “I mean really we could have scored four or five to be honest.”

Mendiola again tried to get Galaxy on the board in the 37th minute, but a weak shot from the left hand side of the box was easily saved by Cohen.

In the 44th minute, Bravo directed a corner to Rooney, whose half-volley just missed wide right.

Phoenix came out in the second half with the same push-forward mentality. Riggi again had another attempt on goal in the 49th minute, only to have Kempin parry it away again.

Adonis Amaya got LA Galaxy on the board first in the 52nd minute, when a Ryo Fujii cross hit the feet of Jordan Stewart, who left it for Adonis to slot it past Cohen for the 1-0 lead.

Wright-Phillips had a chance in the 54th minute as a ball from Rooney fell to his feet just inside the box, but couldn’t put the final touch on the ball.

Amaya almost had a brace four minutes later, but Cohen made a diving save to keep the game 1-0.

Bravo led to Phoenix Rising earning a penalty kick in the 61st minute, when he was taken down in the box. Rooney calmly stepped up and slotted the PK past Kempin to tie the match at 1-1.

“He just said, well my Spanish isn’t great, I only know ‘cerveza.’ To be honest he was great,” Rooney said. “I played the ball through to him, he got fouled. I grabbed the ball and he came up to me. I thought he was going to ask for it at first but he just said ‘calm’ in Spanish, chill, and he said no pressure, just put it away, obviously you know you are a good player. It showed a lot of respect from him. He’s a player that has played at a very high level, and he is highly thought of here, I think (the fans) come to see him. But he was happy for me to take it.”

Rooney picked up the brace in 78th minute when a quick throw from Matt Watson got in to Cortez, who passed it to Bravo who got it to Rooney, who got around the defender and got it past Kempin for the 2-1 lead.

“Yeah of course I mean I don’t get as much satisfaction in setting up goals,” Rooney said. ” tried to send Omar in a couple times in the first half, had a couple shots myself. One thing that Frank (Yallop) said to me last year, when I first came here, was to take more shots and I had a few tonight and managed to get a couple of goals so that’s always good.”

Yallop praised the performance of Riggi on the night.

“He put a good 60 minutes in; he was cramping,” Yallop said. “At halftime he was sort of saying, ‘I got probably 15 minutes left.’ I left him on a little longer than that, but he was doing well. You know in the end you have got to see the game out.”

Riggi has been trying to get his fitness up since he got a late start to the preseason and hasn’t been at full strength since the start of the season.

“For me the biggest struggle has been the heat,” Riggi said. “I mean where I’m from it’s minus twenty with twenty centimeters of snow. So I come here and my lungs take a beating after every day, after every practice but I am adjusting well, I love it and I can’t complain, the temperature is nice.

“The pitches are different too, so it’s good getting used to it every single day. You know chilling with the guys on and off the field helps a lot with the chemistry so we’re building a good group here, a really good group of guys.’

Phoenix Rising now has 15 days to its next game, Sunday, Apr. 23 at home against Swope Park Rangers.

“Yeah it’s tough because we don’t play until (next) Sunday (April 23). They deserve a bit of a break; we’ve pushed them hard this week because I felt our fitness wasn’t there in Salt Lake (against Real Monarchs),” Yallop said. “It was at altitude, we got kind of run of the field. I do now know that they are a good side. They just beat Reno 5-3 and they are a good team, so it wasn’t an easy game anyway.

“But having said that I think we can get a lot fitter and sharper, so these next two weeks we are going to push them and get to a level, so that we can have that, not just 30 minutes of great play, but 60, 70 minutes and we can maintain that type of football for as long as we can.”