Phoenix Rising dismantles Oklahoma City Energy in home opener

Phoenix Rising FC during its 4-1 win over the Oklahoma City Energy Saturday, March 24. (Photo Courtesy of Aaron Blau)

Phoenix Rising’s packed soccer complex witnessed the team’s first win of the 2018 United Soccer League season Saturday, March 24, as forward Chris Cortez scored a hat trick to lead Rising to a 4-1 win over Oklahoma City Energy.

The home opener’s attendance of 6,828 was the second-largest crowd ever in Rising history, according to team communication staff, as they witnessed their team put four goals past the visitors.

A left footed shot, a right footed strike and a header by Cortez piled on top of Solomon Asante’s opener in the first half all led to the take down of the visitors, who barely attacked goalkeeper Carl Woszczynski.

Asante opened Rising’s account with a powerful rocket to the top right corner of the net in the 28th minute, shooting past Energy keeper Matt Van Oekel.

Just as both squads were ready to head into the locker rooms for halftime, Cortez struck with a shot that Van Oekel got his hands on but couldn’t stop from resting in the back of the net.

A moment of confusion took over the Rising Soccer Complex as the referee seemed to signal for the end of the first half right after Cortez’s first goal.

Players retreated into the locker rooms only to be brought back out minutes later to play the three added minutes. The stoppage was due to a foreign object being thrown onto the field after Cortez’s goal.

Energy took the pitch with intensity in the second half, managing a close call that ended with a shot to the post early on. It seemed like Rising was against the wall.

Until Rising midfielder Collin Fernandez weaved his way past defenders to set up Cortez’s second of the night.

Energy responded in full force two minutes later. A free kick deflected by Woszczynski fell into Christian Ibeagha’s feet, who ripped the ball and scored to make it 3-1.

Just as the game was about to end, new Rising arrival Luca Ricci received the ball on the left side of the pitch and crossed it in to Cortez, whose thumping header secured Rising’s fourth and his third of the night.

“Right now we are still doing a lot of mistakes … but we must improve so let’s keep working week after week,” Rising Head Coach Patrice Carteron said. “I guess we can score many goals but we need to defend in a better way.”

Coach Carteron said even though forward Didier Drogba wasn’t present for the home opener, he knows Cortez will fight for the starting position.

“With Chris on fire it will be a fantastic competition,” he said.

Rising’s top performer of the night said his hat trick is credit to the team’s build up.

“With what we did right we’ll just correct the small mistakes we made and move forward,” he said.

Cortez credited his teammates’ work in all three of his goals.

“I’m fortunate to get on the end of some really good deliveries,” he said.

Rising’s next match is Saturday, March 31, visiting Reno 1868 FC. The game will start at 4 p.m.

Editor’s Note: Ricardo Ávila is a student-journalist at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

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