It took 120 minutes and six rounds of penalties, but Sporting AZ FC defeated Phoenix Rising FC in the second round of the 2018 Lamar Hunt U.S. Cup at Chandler-Gilbert Community College Wednesday night.
In the first-ever competitive meeting between the clubs, a back-and-forth stalemate gave way to a breakthrough goal in the 64th minute when Rising captain Chris Cortez turned and fired a perfectly-placed shot to the lower corner of Sporting goalkeeper Andrew Weber’s net.
Sporting didn’t back down, though. Just less than a minute after the ensuing kickoff, Paul LaMarca found Sporting striker Ryan Flood in stride down the left flank. Flood dribbled briefly, had a look to his right, and saw Danny Arrubla trailing his defender in the middle of the box. Flood’s square ball was right on target, and Arrubla’s first-time shot caromed off the underside of the crossbar and into Carl Woszczynski’s net.
With the score tied at the end of regulation, the game entered extra time, and the two teams traded chances, with Sporting’s backline, anchored by Weber, absorbing chance after chance from Rising’s Cortez, Jason Johnson, and Gladson Awako.
In the end, penalties wrought their cruel decisions as they often do. With the first kick in the contest, Rising’s Cortez saw his shot bounce off the crossbar. He was redeemed briefly when Sporting’s David Paul sent his fifth-round shot high over the goal. On the next kick, however, Rising’s Kody Wakasa saw his shot saved by Weber only to roll seemingly toward the net again before bouncing harmlessly off the post. Eijin Kishimoto stepped up next for Sporting and sent Woszczynski the wrong way, setting off an emotional on-field celebration for the victorious UPSL side.
In U.S. Open Cup play, Sporting AZ FC will next face Fresno FC of the USL, once again at home, next Wednesday, May 23.
Photo courtesy Michael Rincon/Phoenix Rising FC