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Unbeaten streak for Phoenix Rising ends at 8 after shock loss

© Joe Rondone/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

With the USL Western Conference standings being heavily-congested, Phoenix Rising ran out of time to force a comeback as New Mexico United pulled off a 2-1 upset victory in Arizona on Oct. 8.

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At Phoenix Rising Stadium, it was Fan Appreciation Night as it was the last home game of the regular season for the valley soccer club, but the game itself was very important.

Last week, the Rising were level on points with Orange County SC as they both had 48 after their 1-1 tie on Sept. 30.

Also the San Diego Loyal were only two points ahead of the Rising with 50 going into Oct. 4, with both the Loyal and Orange County making up their games in hand that they had.

Orange County beat Oakland Roots SC 3-1 to pass the Rising while San Diego tied with the El Paso Locomotive 0-0 as both teams had 51 points going into last night.

Sitting in fifth, the Rising needed a win to keep up the pace in the standings and they had a favorable matchup, on paper, against New Mexico, who were 10th before kick-off.

Even though they had a majority of the possession, it wasn’t enough for the Rising.

First Half

Not much happened in the initial 10 minutes of the game, but New Mexico almost scored soon after that.

Rising defender Mohamed Traore tried to pass the ball forward, but it was intercepted by New Mexico midfielder Zico Bailey.

From near the center circle, Bailey shot the ball all the way towards the goal, but Phoenix goalkeeper Rocco Ríos Novo punched away the long-range chance.

Then in the 32nd minute, Rising winger Danny Trejo and midfielder Panos Armenakas linked-up for a great chance.

Armenakas tried to pass the ball to Trejo, but it was deflected away right back to the Rising midfielder.

Then, Armemakas slid and sent the ball between both New Mexico defenders as Trejo had a breakaway that was saved by New Mexico goalkeeper Andrew Thomas.

Besides those two opportunities, there wasn’t much into the game before the half ended.

Second Half

After he made a mistake in the first half, Traore made an even bigger one to start the second.

Getting swarmed by multiple New Mexico United players in the Rising’s half, Traore tried to pass the ball behind to another defender in the 52nd minute.

With no teammate open, the ball went straight to New Mexico forward Amando Moreno’s feet and he ran into the box before chipping it over Rios Novo to give the away team a 1-0 lead.

Following the goal, multiple yellow cards were given to players on both sides who were arguing with the referee on fouls they committed.

Then, New Mexico striker Greg Hurst got past two Rising defenders before he was on a 1-1 foot-chase with Phoenix center-back John Holger Michael Stenberg.

Eventually, Stenberg hit Hurst with his shoulder inside the box and New Mexico was awarded a penalty by the referee in the 79th minute.

It took until the 83rd minute for New Mexico midfielder Justin Portillo to take and score the penalty after commotion commenced between both squads about the referee’s decision.

Down 2-0 late in the game, the Rising didn’t give up.

Initially losing the ball, Trejo would recover it before passing it to Phoenix attacker Manuel Arteaga.

Out-wide on the left, Arteaga passed it back to Rising substitute Carlos Harvey who did a give-and-go with Trejo before being in the New Mexico box.

With eight players around him, Harvey somehow found Phoenix teammate Dariusz Formella by himself who then shot the ball into the goal to close down the deficit to 2-1 in the 89th minute.

The goal was the first shot in almost 45 minutes for the Rising.

Before the end of the game, both teams attempted one more shot each, but missed.

Post Game Notes

Even though they lost, the Rising had 61% possession compared to 39% from New Mexico.

With the majority of the time with the ball, Phoenix only had two shots on target.

Between both squads, they had a combined 11 yellow cards.

In their last eight games, the Rising were unbeaten before the loss.

As for their seeding in the standings, the loss to New Mexico saw the Rising drop from fourth to sixth in the standings.

Last night, the Loyal beat the Roots 4-2 and Orange County pulled off an upset of their own, beating second-placed San Antonio FC 1-0.

Additionally, Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC surpassed Phoenix after being four points behind just a few weeks ago.

In a 3-2 thriller, the Switchbacks took down the Las Vegas Lights and went from trailing the Rising by one point before last night, to being two ahead with 50 points.

And to top it all off, the last game of the regular season for Phoenix and Colorado Springs is against each other next week.

If the Rising win, they will secure fifth and the Switchbacks would be sixth since Phoenix currently has 48 points.

For the last game of the regular season, the Rising head to Colorado Springs on Oct.14 at 5 p.m.

Phoenix Rising to host Fan Appreciation Night Saturday

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Alec Cipollini is a journalist covering the Arizona Coyotes and Phoenix Rising for Burn City Sports. You can follow him on his new X account @AlecCipollini

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