SCOTTSDALE -- Phoenix Rising's Junior Flemmings was a one-man wrecking crew on Saturday night, notching a hat trick in Rising's 5-2 win over rival New Mexico United at Casino Arizona Field.
"Coming off that defeat [July 25 to Orange County], we said that wasn't good enough," Flemmings told the media following the match in which he tied for the USL Championship goal scoring lead with 7 markers this season. "We had to compete harder and we did that tonight."
The match started off similarly to last week for Phoenix Rising as the home side fell behind early. In the fifth minute, New Mexico's Romeo Parkes headed a long ball from Amando Romero up and over Phoenix keeper Zac Lubin to give the United a quick 1-0 advantage.
"We made an early mistake again," Rising Head Coach Rick Schantz said.
Flemmings didn't let the deficit last, cashing in just 12 minutes later. Jon Bakero lobbed a long ball to Flemmings, who discarded his defender, cut the ball right and unleashed a curling shot past United keeper Cody Mizell to tie the match at 1-1.
Rising took the lead in the 22nd minute when Solomon Asante crossed a pass to Rufat Dadashov who flicked the ball past Mizell and just inside the left post. The goal, Dadashov's fifth of the season, gave Phoenix a 2-1 lead at halftime.
Out of the break, "Solo" again made his presence felt. Asante took a corner kick and floated a long ball to the far post to a nearly unmarked A.J. Cochran. Cochran did the rest, rising up to head the ball into the right side netting for his first goal of the season and a 3-1 Phoenix lead in the 52nd minute.
The United pulled closer a few minutes later. Phoenix misplayed a clearing attempt on a corner kick and Andrew Tinari scored with his back to the net. The diminutive Tinari back heeled the loose ball past Lubin from 6 yards out to cut the Rising lead to 3-2.
The visitors would get no closer as Flemmings used the balance of the match to showcase his offensive prowess.
In the 73rd minute, Bakero played a crisp, low pass to the feet of Flemmings, who easily redirected the ball behind a frustrated Mizell.
"Great vision by Bakero," Flemmings said of the assist.
The hat trick was complete just before second-half stoppage time. Substitute Santi Moar broke free down the left side, drew several defenders toward him and sent a perfect diagonal pass to Flemmings who was darting down the right toward the box. Flemmings paused then sent a blast into the roof of the net for his third goal of the night and seventh of the season. With a hat trick in his pocket, Flemmings signaled with three fingers to his teammates on the bench.
Phoenix outshot New Mexico 16-15 overall. The Rising had six shots on target and five found the back of the net. United controlled possession for 56% of the match but just three of their 15 shots were on target.
Bakero and Asante each had two assists for Phoenix Rising.
The win propels Phoenix (4-1-1) to the top of the table in Group B with 13 points. New Mexico (3-2-1) still holds the lead in Group C with 10 points.
Phoenix Rising next hosts San Diego Loyal (3-1-2, 11 points) on Saturday, Aug 15 as their originally scheduled midweek match with LA Galaxy II was postponed due to a positive coronavirus test from a Galaxy member.
Kickoff against San Diego is set for 7:30 p.m. Fans are still not allowed in the stands, but the game will be broadcast on CW61 television and streamed on ESPN+ and the ABC15 app. An audio broadcast can be heard on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.
"We are going to keep playing one game at a time," Flemmings said.