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USL Championship

Down a man, Phoenix Rising scores late to beat Orange County 2-1


PHOENIX — Phoenix Rising FC picked up a 2-1 win vs. Orange County SC on Saturday night thanks to two goals from forward Dariusz Formella.

Gabi Torres and JC Azocar picked up assists in the victory, which moves the defending champs into fourth place in the Western Conference Standings 14 games into the season.

Rising (5-5-4) grabbed a 1-0 lead in the sixth minute of the match when defender Mo Traore came forward from his spot at left back and slipped a first touch pass into the box for Torres.

The Brazilian midfielder picked up his team-leading third assist of the season by carrying the ball to the end line and knocking a pass backwards to late arriving forward Formella. Orange County goalkeeper Duran Ferree was beaten by Torres’ pass leaving Formella with a wide-open net to shoot at from 12-yards out. Formella easily put away the chance, giving the home side an early edge.

Formella nearly made it 2-0 in the 20th minute after Erickson Gallardo chipped a short pass into the forward’s path at the top right corner of the box. The striker took a touch and fired a shot towards the far post but Ferree made a diving save to his right side to keep the score at 1-0.

Traore put a 50-yard pass on Formella’s foot in the 29th minute. No. 29 brought the pass down perfectly and struck a hard volley on goal from just outside the area with his second touch. The line drive shot was well struck but directly at Ferree, who punched the shot away from danger.

Orange County tied the game 1-1 in the 57th minute after a low corner kick was sent into the area. The pass came to the feet of an Orange County player, who deflected the ball into a crowd of players in front of the goal. Ethan Zubeck was the first to react, smashing a low shot through several players and into the back of the net.

Torres curled a pass into the box right on the money to Gallardo in the 73rd minute. Gallardo dove to redirect a header on goal but the shot drifted just over the crossbar.

Rising’s Edguardo Rito was shown a red card for dissent in the 84th minute but Phoenix pushed forward despite playing a man down for the final six minute plus stoppage time.

The game-winning goal came in a buildup from midfield, through Torres, then Renzo Zambrano and Fede Varela before being sent out wide to Traore. Once again, the defender opened Orange County’s back line with an incisive long cross to Azocar at the back post.

The winger picked his head up and found Formella and for the second time on the night, once early and once late, the striker found the back of the net to give Phoenix a one-goal lead and eventually the 2-1 victory.