Phoenix Rising celebrate after blowout win over Memphis 901 FC


NEVN Photography

Rising FC players celebrate one of their six goals on Saturday night against Memphis FC.

Hannah Hamilton, Reporter

On Saturday night, Phoenix Rising hosted Memphis 901 FC at 38th St./Washington.

Memphis, one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference, came into the game playing top notch, winning 6 of their last 8 matches.

Rising is returning home from a road trip, beating New Mexico 3-1 on June 21 and then drawing against Oakland Roots 1-1 last Saturday.

With the temperature a sweltering 107 degrees at kickoff, both teams could have easily held back, but Rising defender Eddie Munjona, took advantage of an open lane, taking a touch to the left of a Memphis defender and sending the ball soaring to the back corner of the net for a 12th minute goal.

After the game, Munjona talked about his goal.

“Harvey played me the ball—it was one of those things we’ve been working on all week—me kind of coming in interior space,” Munjona said. “Even though I’m playing outside back, I think it’s something that, I obviously have as a quality of mine, but it was part of the game plan Juan laid out this week for us, to have moments where I come inside and there’ll be space there for me based on how their defending.”

Seven minutes later, Phoenix was awarded a free kick just outside the box when forward Manuel Arteaga was pulled to the ground. Arteaga’s shot ricocheted perfectly off Memphis goal keeper Drew Romig, and Rising midfielder  Carlos Harvey was right there on the follow through to slam the ball into the goal.

Despite the two-goal lead, Rising was scrambling on defense during the first half, with Memphis leading the possession game at 59%.

Memphis completed more passes and had a higher pass accuracy rating in the first half, but Phoenix wasn’t sitting back.

In past weeks Phoenix fans have watched Rising players get to goal and then take too many touches, or pass the ball rather than taking the shot.

Tonight, Phoenix came out fierce, taking advantage of their chances with the counterattacks, making clean touches, and shooting the ball when provided the opportunity.

Just before halftime, forward Manuel Arteaga received a perfectly placed assist and was one on one with the keeper.  Despite getting tripped up he managed to get enough on his touch to send the ball through the keeper and into the goal, making the score a stunning 3-0 going into the half.

Even with the sun well down, the players came out for the second half in stifling 99-degree summer heat.

Memphis came out strong though, winning the possession battle, but a sloppy defensive play left Erickson Gallardo one on one with Romig and he scored in the 56th minute.

Before Memphis 901 could even process the prior goal, Danny Trejo received an assist from Gallardo, on yet another Memphis defensive error, and Rising made no mistake, with Trejo placed the ball in the back of the net for a staggering 5-0 lead.

Rising head coach Juan Guerra was able to take advantage of his teams lead and subbed in several players during the second half of the match.

Just when fans thought the scoring was over, Rising midfielder Federico (Fede) Varela swooped in and made the final score 6-0.

When the referee blew the final whistle, fans erupted in a louder than usual cheer for their team after the tremendous victory.

Munjona spoke about the defense’s shutout performance after the game.

“As a defender, I take a lot of pride in that. Keeping the zero is the most important thing.  Because like I said–with the team we have, the talent that we have, and what we have in the quality in attack, we’re always going to be able to score goals.  So keeping the zero is the most important–as long as we keep doing that, we’re going to win a lot of games for sure,” Munjona said.

After the game, Guerra spoke about the impressive win.

“It’s a good performance that led to a very good result, and I’m very happy for the players.  I’m happy for their families, I’m happy for supporters—tonight was a good night. Now we just gotta make sure we go in, we celebrate tonight, we rest, we recover, and we gotta be ready to go again next week,” said Guerra.

Phoenix won’t play at home again until July 22 when they face the Colorado Springs Switchbacks at 7:30 p.m. at 38th St. /Washington.