Phoenix Rising’s season ends with loss to Swope Park Rangers

Credit: Aaron Blau / Firebird Rising
Credit: Aaron Blau / Firebird Rising

Despite a goal in extra time by Didier Drogba, Phoenix Rising FC’s season came to an end Sunday afternoon as Swope Park Rangers won 4-2 in penalties following a 1-1 draw at Children’s Mercy Victory Field in Kansas City, Mo.

Phoenix Rising finishes the season with an 18-10-7 overall record in all competitions for the season, finishing 17-8-7 in the regular season, 1-1 in the US Open Cup and 0-1 in the USL Playoffs.

The teams started play in the second half Sunday after an almost-19-hour delay due to weather. Phoenix Rising made two changes to the lineup forced because of injuries in the first half Saturday night: Gladson Awako came on for Jason Johnson and Matt Watson came on for Sam Hamilton.

Phoenix Rising controlled the play for first 20 minutes. Awako had a shot from distance in the 48th minute that went wide of net. Didier Drogba had a shot at goal from deep in the 50th minute that he tried to chip over the top of Swope Park goalkeeper Darrin MacLeod, but it just went over the top. Drogba then had an attempt in the 59th minute off a corner kick that just went over the top.

Amadou Dia gave Phoenix Rising one of its best chances in the 67th minute when his shot was saved by MacLeod and knocked out for a corner kick.

Swope Park’s Nansel Selbol came into the match in the 70th minute and almost made an immediate impact three minutes later, but his shot at net went just wide. Kharlton Belmar then gave Swope Park its best chance in the 77th minute, when he beat Kody Wakasa one-on-one but his shot went right into the gut of Josh Cohen for an easy save.

The teams then played out the remaining 10 minutes and ended regulation scoreless.

In the first half of extra time, it was Phoenix Rising striking first. Substitute Alessandro Riggi, who came on for Chris Cortez in the 96th minute, struck a free kick in the 99th minute that went into the middle of the box, where Drogba got a glancing head on to the ball, and it had enough power on it to get past MacLeod to give Phoenix a 1-0 lead that it would carry to the end of the first half of added time.

But Swope Park would answer in the second half of added time. In the 109th minute, Lebo Moloto hit a ball into the box, where Belmar got a head to it and popped it up in the air. Amer Didic came in with Dia trailing him on the play and Drogba down in the box, and headed it past Cohen to tie the match at 1-1.

Phoenix Rising had a chance to win it in the 113th minute, when Drogba’s free kick from just outside the box was saved by MacLeod, and the match went to penalties.

Phoenix Rising stepped up first, and Kevon Lambert’s shot was saved by MacLeod to MacLeod’s left. Selbol stepped up and gave Swope Park a 1-0 lead after the first round.

The teams would then trade penalties in the next two rounds, with Dia and Awako scoring for Phoenix Rising, and Christian Duke and Belmar scoring for Swope Park to give the hosts a 3-2 lead after three rounds.

Doueugui Mala then stepped up in the fourth round and put his penalty over the bar. Moloto then scored his penalty to send Swope Park to the USL Western Conference semifinals and a home date against Sacramento Republic FC.

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