SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Phoenix Rising FC convincingly defeated Las Vegas Lights FC by a score of 4-0 on Saturday night in front of a ninth consecutive sellout at Casino Arizona Field.
It was all PRFC on Saturday night as Phoenix held USL Championship’s leading shot taking team to 13 total shots, none of which were on target.
Phoenix Rising now sits in third place in the Western Conference standings, just four points out of first with a game in hand.
PRFC manager Rick Schantz made six changes from his starting XI in the club’s U.S. Open Cup match on Wednesday against New Mexico United, but that was to be expected as Saturday night’s game was Rising’s third in nine days.
Goalkeeper Zac Lubin, captain Solomon Asante and forward Adam Jahn all returned to the starting XI while defenders Doueugui Mala, Austin Ledbetter and Kyle Bjornethun filled out the back for, leaving A.J. Cochran as the only regular starting defender.
Schantz deployed the same 4-3-3 formation for a third straight match, but with yet another twist.
With the return of the club’s leading goal scorer Adam Jahn to the starting lineup, midfielder Jon Bakero dropped from the false-9 role to a more distributing role in front of the defense.
The positioning was surprising at first, as the Spaniard normally plays much higher up the pitch as a number 10. But the positional adjustment proved to be a major factor in the match as the connection between the midfield and wingers was sublime.
“Well, I didn’t expect it,” Schantz said of Bakero’s positioning. “We knew he’d be different than James Musa because we thought he would play a little bit more in more of Jose [Aguinaga] and Lambert.
“But the idea is that there’s no [number] 6, 8 or 10. It’s three of them working together based on the front three.”
After nearly an entire half of peppering the Las Vegas goalkeeper, including a couple shots off of the post, Rising FC finally broke the deadlock on a Kevon Lambert goal that was a direct result of the continuity of the front six.
“He did it himself,” Lambert said of Jahn’s dummy.
“I was expecting it, but I didn’t know he was going to leave it. I appreciate him leaving it for me.”
After not starting since April 27 against Sacramento Republic FC due to personal reasons, Asante picked up right where he left off. The Ghanaian came into the match tied with Flemmings for the team lead in assists (4). Coincidentally, Flemmings assisted Asante’s goal, making Flemmings the team’s leading assist man and bringing Asante level with Jahn for the most goals on the team (5).
However, those rankings would be short-lived, as Jahn was able to score his fifth goal in the last four matches in all competitions, restoring him as the club’s leading goal scorer with seven.
“He’s a perfect pro,” Schantz said of Jahn. “He’s a quiet leader. He comes to work every day. He’s great on social media. That’s what we pay him to do.
“We had a good talk about it this year and I know he’ll be happy about the shutout because he works his butt off to defend.”
Flemmings time atop the Rising assist leaders was only temporary as well after Asante returned the favor by assisting the Jamaican in the dying minutes of the match, bringing Flemmings’ total goal count to six on the year in all competitions and bringing the duo tied on assists (5) once again.
“It’s all on me,” Schantz said. “You have to trust me. You find out what kind of a man you are when things are difficult. We’ve had a bit of an up and down season and we’ve had some challenging times.
“Wednesday night was very hard. Some of these guys ran 14, 15 kilometers and they came out tonight. There was a mission. They trusted one another. They trusted the staff. I said ‘You don’t stop now. This is our family and this is the culture of Phoenix Rising: winning’.”
PRFC returns to action on May 25 away to Real Monarchs.
Kickoff is set for 7:00 p.m. and the match can be audio streamed on ArizonaSports.com.