Phoenix Rising host Las Vegas Lights as fans return to stadium for first time since COVID-19 shutdown


Ole Olafson

Rising goalkeeper Zac Lubin defends his goal against Las Vegas Lights Friday night

Ole Olafson , Reporter

On Friday night, Phoenix Rising returned from a long road trip to be greeted by actual fans in the stands and didn’t pass up the opportunity to entertain those in attendance.

Red smoke flares.

The staccato notes of a drum corps in the south end-zone stands echoing through the stadium.

The cheering of fans.

Dollar beer night!

Everything seemed a little bit more normal at Casino Arizona Field for Rising’s first game back after an extensive road trip which began on Aug. 19 with a road win against L.A. Galaxy II.  Three days later, a draw at Las Vegas followed by a 2-1 win at Reno and a 2-0 win back at Las Vegas on Sept. 5, rounded out the trip.

Rising were looking to continue their undefeated streak at home this COVID-shortened seasoned amid the buzz created by the return of fans to the games.

For the first time since play was suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic, the team was able to host some of their most loyal fans and rewarded nearly 1,000 evenly-spaced season ticketholders to a home-field style knocking around of Las Vegas Lights FC.

After a moment of silent remembrance for the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the players came together again to bring awareness to institutional racism and social injustice which has been at the forefront of numerous events this summer.

The first half of the game was the Rufat Dadashov show, as the league’s second-leading scorer netted a brace of goals in the first 45 minutes.  Dadashov’s first tally of the game came 27 minutes in, when he headed a Kevon Lambert pass past Las Vegas goalkeeper Thomas Olsen.  Junior Flemmings started the play that led to a pass from Santi Moar which resulted in Dadashov’s second goal of the half at 44′.

10 minutes after the start of the second half, Dadashov stayed involved in the scoring when he received a pass from Darnell King and delivered the ball to the league’s leading scorer, Junior Flemmings, who beat Olsen for his 11th goal of the season.

Two minutes later, Sam Stanton piled on with a goal of his own before Jon Bakero wrapped up the Rising scoring with an 82nd minute penalty shot that made it 5-0 Phoenix.

Bryan de la Fuente spoiled Rising goalkeeper Zac Lubin’s bid for a clean sheet when he scored eight minutes before the end of regulation time.

San Diego Loyal, whom the Rising defeated 2-0 before leaving for their recently completed road trip, will return to Casino Arizona Field on Sept. 19 for the teams second to last meeting of the season.