A run at a top 4 playoff spot for Phoenix Rising FC was dealt a blow Saturday night as Sacramento Republic FC ended Phoenix Rising’s scoreless streak at 416 minutes with a pair of goals early in the second half as Sacramento topped Phoenix Rising 2-0 at Papa Murphy’s Park and ended Phoenix Rising’s four-match winning streak and its 11-match unbeaten streak.
Despite the loss Phoenix Rising remained in fifth place with 49 points, six points behind San Antonio FC for the fourth spot and four points ahead of Sacramento in sixth with three matches remaining.
Sacramento held the better of the play for the majority of the first half. Sacramento has chances in the third and 12th minutes, but Josh Cohen was able to grab to stop the threats.
Phoenix Rising had its first opportunity in the 15th minute. Gladson Awako’s cross from the left almost found Chris Cortez, but Evan Newton grabbed to stop the threat.
Sacramento then countered right away, and Villyan Bijev fired a shot just wide of the net.
Phoenix Rising’s best chance in the first half came in the 24th minute, when Alessandro Riggi hit a free kick from the right to the back post to Cortez, but his shot was cleared by Sacramento defender Emrah Klimenta.
Three minutes later, Jason Johnson had a chance inside the box with a header, but Newton got a piece of it to put it over the bar.
Samuel Ochoa had one of Sacramento’s best first half chances in the 29th minute, when he took a ball from the right into the middle of the box and fired a shot on, but fired it right into the hands of Cohen.
But Cohen would have to come up big in the 40th minute. James Kiffe fired a cross in from the left side into the box, and a header that glanced off Cortez had to be fended off by Cohen for the biggest save of the first half to keep the game scoreless after the first 45 minutes of play.
Sacramento ended Phoenix Rising’s shutout streak five minutes into the second half. Matt Watson committed a handball foul outside the box and earned a yellow card on the play. Shortly after, Klimenta stepped up and struck a world-class free kick to the upper 90 to the right of Cohen for the 1-0 lead.
Newton made two tough grabs in the 52nd and 54th minutes. Newton made a grab on a Riggi cross up high, then Johnson fired a low cross that Newton corralled.
Sacramento would double the lead a minute later from Augustine Cazarez. Cazarez would fire a shot low to Cohen’s right but Cohen couldn’t get to it and Sacramento had the 2-0 lead.
Phoenix Rising would have its best chance to get back in the match in the 77th minute. Shaun Wright-Phillips hit a free kick into the box and Amadou Dia got a head onto it but it was knocked down by Newton but not held, and Watson had a chance inside the six, but Newton was able to save as well.
Phoenix Rising had another chance two minutes later, A.J. Gray hit a cross from the right into the middle of the box, where Wright-Phillips got a head on the ball but Newton was up to the task and making the save.
Phoenix Rising FC returns home for its final three games of the regular season, starting Wednesday night against Tulsa Roughnecks FC at the Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.