PHOENIX, AZ- The Firebirds came inches from setting a club single-season points record, but the woodwork denied Phoenix twice in a 0-0 draw with Orange County Soccer Club.
Phoenix Rising Starting XI: GK- Cohen, D- Wakasa, Stewart, Lambert, Ramage, Vasquez, MF- Watson, Riggi, Shaun Wright-Phillips, F- Johnson, Cortez.
Orange County Starting XI: GK- Lyon, D- Franco, Sorto, Hume, Ocegueda, MF- Chaplow, Olijve, Alvarez, F- Van Ewijk, Pacheco, Parra.
Match Recap: Although the teams drew their first two matches, both sides started with purpose. Orange County created the first chance of note in the 7th minute, but Jordan Stewart headed a dangerous cross from Frank Olijve to safety.
Phoenix Rising responded in the 12th minute when Jason Johnson teed Alessandro Riggi up from 20 yards out, but his shot sailed two feet over the bar. Moments later, Johnson came closer to breaking the deadlock moments later, but his left-footed effort rolled inches wide of the post. Not to be outdone, Jerry Van Ewijk nearly curled home a 25 yard effort for Orange County in the 14th minute.
In the 24th minute, Kody Wakasa played a hopeful cross for Johnson, but the striker’s header went wide. Then Orange County came close with a long-range effort from Juan Pablo Ocegueda in the 30th. Irvin Parra drove into the box in the 37th minute, but Jordan Stewart made a critical block. Riggi earned a dangerous free kick just before halftime after Walker Hume decked him, but Chris Cortez’s effort sailed over the bar.
After halftime, Peter Ramage and Cortez nearly teamed up for a highlight-reel goal. Ramage headed the ball to Cortez off a corner kick, but Charlie Lyon caught the striker’s bicycle kick effort. In the 61st minute, Gladson Awako subbed in for Cortez to make his Firebird debut. Moments later, Awako was taken down by OC captain Richard Chaplow.
In the 74th minute, Phoenix Rising capped off its best spell of possession in the match when Riggi played a dangerous ball in for Johnson. However, the Jamaican striker could only hit a slow roller into Lyon’s gloves. Both sides pressed for a winner in the late stages, but neither team had the quality to test the goalkeepers.
In the 90th minute, the Firebirds came agonizingly close to breaking the deadlock. AJ Gray played a ball into the box, and Johnson hit the right post. The rebound pinged sharply in Awako’s direction, and his off-balance effort clanged off the left post. The match ended minutes later at 0-0.
Up Next: The Firebirds travel to Colorado Springs for a crucial match. Kickoff is Saturday night at 6:30 pm MST.