Sam Hamilton’s best effort of the season couldn’t have come at a better time for Phoenix Rising FC.
The Colorado Rapids loanee played his best game of the season and scored in the first half, and Jason Johnson added an insurance goal in the second half in Phoenix Rising’s 2-0 victory over Western Conference leaders Real Monarchs SLC in front of 6,008 fans Saturday at the Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex.
The win extends Phoenix Rising’s franchise record unbeaten string to eight games.
Things got going early on the attack for Phoenix Rising as Real Monarchs struggled for the first 15 minutes to possess the ball among its back line. Alessandro Riggi had an early shot in the second minute, and then three minutes later after a Real Monarchs turnover, had a two-on-none attack with Gladson Awako. Riggi kept the ball and took a low shot, but Connor Sparrow was up to the task and made the early save.
In the ninth minute, Riggi again got in behind the Real Monarchs defense, but took his touch too hard and was taken down in the box by a Real Monarchs defender on a clean tackle.
Phoenix Rising finally found the scoreboard in the 29th minute. Riggi’s corner found the head of Kevon Lambert, but Sparrow came up with a great save. but Hamilton was right on the spot and banged it home for the 1-0 lead.
Phoenix Rising kept the pressure on in the second half. Chris Cortez got into the action twice within the first 20 minutes. In the 60th minute, a Real Monarchs giveaway found Cortez on the counter, but his shot from just outside the box went over the top. Two minutes later, Lambert stole the ball and countered, found Cortez streaking, but his went over top again.
Johnson came in the match in the 71st minute and made an immediate impact two minutes later. Gladson Awako and Kody Wakasa played a great 1-2 touch and Wakasa hit a perfect cross to the box, where Johnson was waiting knocked it past Sparrow for his eighth goal of the season for a 2-0 lead.
Real Monarchs’ first real chance came in the 76th minute, when Daniel Haber drove into the box and fired a shot, but Jordan Stewart was in the right place at the right time to block the shot out for a corner.
Things got testy in the 82nd minute when Amadou Dia and Sebastian Velasquez came to blows, however no cards were issued.
Johnaon almost scored a second in the 88th minute, when he got in on goal but is shot was saved by Sparrow. Johnson was able to corral the rebounds, but his second attempt went way over the bar.
Velasquez had Real Monarchs’ only shot on goal in the 88th minute when he got by the defense, but Josh Cohen was up to the task making the near-post save.
The win keeps Phoenix Rising in seventh place, tied with sixth-place Tulsa Roughnecks FC on points, but Tulsa holds the tiebreaker with more wins (12) then Phoenix Rising (11).
Phoenix Rising now heads out on an important four match, 14-day road trip, starting Wednesday night when Phoenix Rising takes on Seattle Sounders 2 FC in Tukwila, Wash. at 7:30 p.m.