Phoenix Rising defeats New Mexico United for a 3rd consecutive victory

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Phoenix Rising’s Saturday night game against New Mexico United may not have been considered as high a stake as Wednesday’s game, when the two teams will face off in the third round of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.

But it certainly counted in the USL game. Prior to kickoff at Wild Horse Pass, Rising and New Mexico United held the No. 6 and No. 7 seeds in the Western Conference – crucial spots as the top seven teams in each conference qualify for the playoffs. .

And although the playoffs could be months away, Phoenix made sure to show he deserved to play for a title in the fall.

Striker Greg Hurst’s 14th-minute goal proved the game winner as Rising beat New Mexico United 1-0 Phoenix Rising FC Soccer Complex at Wild Horse Pass in Chandler to win their fourth consecutive game and the third in conference. The win also marked Phoenix’s 24th home triumph in 25 games.

While Hurst may have created the lead, it was goalkeeper Benjamin Lundt who sealed the game, saving a penalty shot from New Mexico United striker Tabort Etaka Preston in overtime.

“Sometimes your big man, when he’s called, he has to make the save,” Rising manager Rick Schantz said. “The (Lundt) game had tonight… If that’s not Team of the Week performance, I don’t know what is.”

The German goalkeeper, who made five saves, was immediately spurred into action as New Mexico United’s quick attack created prime scoring opportunities. His players dodged Phoenix defenders with evasive dribbling and long passing, which set up a seventh-minute streak in which New Mexico United striker Neco Brett was wide open due to a lack of Rising defenders in his own third.

While Brett’s attempt was ultimately blocked by the bodies of Phoenix players, that wasn’t the end of the pressure. New Mexico United’s offense caused Lundt to take off twice in the next ten minutes to deflect shots.

Still, a 14th-minute header block from the goalkeeper, during which he dived and popped the ball with his left hand, sparked Phoenix’s first goal.

Phoenix defender Kevon Lambert responded to Lundt’s block and sent him onto the field, where he found forward Marcus Epps just in front of a New Mexico United defender. Epps then saw Hurst run past his man and connected with him on a high arc, curved pass. In attack, the Scottish striker quickly switched dribbling from his right foot to his left foot, feigning New Mexico United goalkeeper Cody Mizell in the process, before sending the decisive shot into the right corner of the net.

“We put it all on the line and again we scored early,” Lundt said. “New Mexico is a good team. They hadn’t lost this year, so we had to give it our all. It wasn’t perfect, but we got three points today.”

Rising fans reveled in their team’s lead as Phoenix continued to find opportunities, including three shots in the final three minutes of the first half. Still, New Mexico United did not falter, maintaining pressure that led to six shots, three of which were on goal.

The team’s success pushing the pace, recognized by the cheers of New Mexico United fans at the Wild Horse Pass, forced Rising to rack up a stat it had managed to avoid until tonight: cards. yellow.

In its previous five USL games, Phoenix has had the fewest yellow cards in the league with eight. But after 45 minutes they added three to that total, along with 12 fouls. The team finished with 19 fouls in total.

“I think we were a bit too aggressive in the first half on some of our pressing moments,” Schantz said. “Our full-backs were caught in the middle. They weren’t closing fast enough. So if you come in late, you’re going to get a call.”

However, that didn’t slow Rising down as the team opened the second half aggressively and found opportunities deep in the opposing third. Part of that strategy came from Schantz replacing striker Claudio Repetto with midfielder Joey Calistri in the 59th minute, a move he believed would bolster Rising’s success in transition moments and give more of space in midfielder Arturo Rodriguez.

Epps, midfielder Luis Seijas and defender Ryan Flood quickly took advantage of advantageous positioning around the box to try and increase Phoenix’s lead, but Mizell was there to thwart their attempts.

New Mexico United saw a similar trend, along with increased penalties. The team racked up two yellow cards in the 63rd minute which surrounded an incident in which Lundt was knocked down after players piled into the box. The two teams began to argue in net, but the situation quickly dissipated and play resumed.

“It’s one of those games where you just have to get away with it,” Lundt said.

While Hurst nearly extended Phoenix’s lead with a header that floated just over the crossbar in the 80th minute, the next closest scoring opportunity came in the second minute of overtime. Flood received a warning from the referees and Rising’s sixth yellow card of the night. Eventually, a penalty was awarded to New Mexico United.

Once again, the game was in Lundt’s hands. And he made his moment count.

He made an acrobatic final save by diving to his left to block Preston’s shot, causing an eruption of excitement at Wild Horse Pass as fans celebrated the Rising goalkeeper had done just enough to be the hero who took the win on Saturday night.

“I was really busy today,” Lundt said. “I kept telling myself that I had to do one more. Then the penalty came and then a bit (of) luck, the ball goes down and we win the game.”

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