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Phoenix Rising Moves Reaches Western Conference Final Following 4-2 Win

October 27, 2018 - United Soccer League Championship (USL) - Phoenix Rising FC News Release

PHOENIX - Phoenix Rising FC moved on to the USL Western Conference Finals after defeating Swope Park 4-2 in front of a record sellout crowd of 7,707. Rising FC now awaits the result of Orange County SC and Reno 1868 FC to find out if the club will host the conference finals.

If Orange County wins, Phoenix Rising will travel to Orange County on Saturday, November 3rd and kickoff at 7pm. If Reno 1868 FC wins, Rising FC will host them on Friday, November 2nd, and kickoff at 7:30pm.

Phoenix Rising midfielder Kevon Lambert scored the game-winning goal in the in the 48th minute with an assist from Jason Johnson. His shot from the top of the box took several bounces before hitting the back of the net and giving the club a lead it never relinquished.

Didier Drogba sealed the club's win with a goal in stoppage time to make it 4-2. Forward Chris Cortez made a clean one-on-one tackle in the opposing half to get the ball to Solomon Asante. Asante drove toward the net before centering a pass to Drogba, who finished for the insurance goal.

Rising FC forward Jason Johnson opened the scoring in the 23rd minute to make it 1-0. With the ball at the top left corner of the box, Johnson nutmegged his defender to give himself space before firing his shot into the far right side of the net.

Swope Park responded with two goals of their own to take a brief 2-1 lead. But, in the 36th minute, Cortez scored an equalizer with an assist from Didier Drogba. That goal marked his 30th career goal with the club, a new club record.

Information on potential tickets for the Western Conference Finals, should Phoenix RIsing host, will be released on Sunday morning.

Post-match quotes

Coach Rick Schantz

On reaching the Western Conference Final:

"For us, it's just another one down. We still have two more to go. These guys, when I tell them there's a goal and we set it, I've said it all along they're determined and we're not done. For me, it's just another week, and it's all I've been asking for, one more week every time."

On the key to their 4-2 win over Swope Park:

"Organization, communication. We knew we were playing a very disciplined team, they move the ball. They're the best possession team in the league, so we didn't have to have the ball. We knew we could score goals, and we did. We put away four goals against a really good team. In the locker room at halftime, I wasn't as frustrated as I was pleased with their response, but I was disappointed because we still had some simple breakdowns. It was great. Everyone was talking, they were all solving the problems, and in the second half they stuck to the plan. I couldn't ask for more out of the players."

On the holding play of the midfielders in the 4-2 win:

"We talked with Didier and Chris, and said you're going to have to take away their #6, because that's where the 3-v-2 is. When you have Collin Fernandez and Kevon Lambert, I can't wait to look at their numbers because I'm sure those guys ran 11 kilometers. They worked hard. That's what I asked of them, to suffer and sacrifice for the team. When they do that, we're pretty good."

On a message to their opponent in the Western Conference Final:

"We'll be ready. We'll be ready either way. We'll celebrate, we'll enjoy this. The club is now in the Western Conference Finals. We'll enjoy this first before we worry about that. I know they're excited because tomorrow night they're going to go watch the game together."

On what the team needs to work on to advance to the USL Cup Final:

"We just have to communicate and stay organized. Defensively, I thought we were solid except for a couple small mistakes. Other than that, we were a good team tonight."

On starting to wear suits during the playoffs:

"I'm going to have to go get a third one now. I was telling Jose that, I told the staff that we're going to have to stick to suits. We'll see. Maybe we'll get a bonus for winning."

Saad Abdul-Salaam

On if he imagined having this much success when he first came to Phoenix on loan:

"I knew this was a playoff team and I came here to play, that was the goal of me coming here. I'm happy we're performing game in and game out since I've been here. We're going to keep going, two more games."

On what the team needs to do to reach the USL Cup Final:

"Keep doing what we're doing. Our coaching staff has given us a great game plan for every game, and guys work hard everyday in training."

On the key to the 4-2 win over Swope Park:

"Today we wanted to stay compact, target them. They made key passes going back, we had triggers, and we just executed the game plan today."

On the takeaways from Swope Park's first goal of the night:

"That's just the game. Sometimes, the ball might bounce unlucky, that's what happened on the first goal. We rebounded strong, and performed for the rest of the game."

On if the team will continue to sit back in the first half of games:

"I don't think we're sitting back in the first half. It's tactics. It's playing part of our game plan. You do it in stretches, and see what the team does to you."

On Swope Park's wingers, Barry and Belmar:

"Both are talented wingers that we had to keep an eye on. Both me and Dia did a good job tonight. Congratulations to them, they're great players."

On feeling when the referee blew the final whistle:

"It felt good. The game's over, we won. We get to celebrate with the fans. We get to go home and we have another week to prepare, and have another game."

On what was said after allowing the second goal to Swope Park:

Stay calm, and stay together. The game can go any way, the game's 90 minutes. Stay calm and stay together.

Chris Cortez

On how it feels to be one game away from the final:

"Very happy. Very happy to take the next step and now it's about enjoying this moment for a sec and then next thing it's next week, seeing who we play tomorrow and then after that prepare for next week."

On if he thought about breaking the club record when he scored:

"No, not at all. I was thinking about tying the game and eventually winning it. That's all we really cared about, because if I break a club record but we get knocked out in the semis, who's going to really remember that? I'd much rather remember a championship than anything else."

On what the record means to him now that the club has progressed:

"Yeah, absolutely. It means a lot. We've taken the next step, but now we've got Western Conference Finals and after that USL Championship. So we haven't won anything yet. We've got a step in the right direction, and we need to keep going."

On what they need to work on for the next game:

"I think we did very well today. I think just small adjustments based on who we play. Different teams have different styles of play so it'll be very small details like we have prepared throughout the year every time we play a different opponent. Aside from that, stick to what we've been doing well."

On his different positioning tonight:

"I think it's just a matter of feeling out where spaces are and where they're given to you. Didier and I both can play either under or up top, so it's a matter of we can flip-flop and I think that helps mess with teams as well when either one of us can go and they're not sure what to do. So, it's a matter of who it's on to go forward at that specific moment and who it's on to come get a feed."

On what was said at half-time:

Cortez: Just keep going, having faith in what we were doing. The first goal if you really look at it, it took a few deflections in the midfield and then another couple deflections where it bounces and falls into him and he's got a goal. It was about 'hey, you know what, just don't concede.' We know we're getting goals, we know goals are coming for us and so it's a matter of staying compact at the back and then waiting for our chances and taking them.

On his preferred opponent:

"It doesn't matter, honestly. We'll see what happens. You can't really have a preference. They're both good teams. It'll be a great matchup either way."

On playing at home if Reno win:

"That's the only thing I can say that would be the difference, would be being able to play at home again and put on another show for our fans. That's about it."

On his happiness for Kevon Lambert scoring:

"Honestly, I was down on the ground. All of a sudden, I turned. I didn't even know who had scored it until afterward. But yeah, I just heard the stadium erupt, I turned around and saw the ball go into the net and I'm just so happy that we can take the lead. Lambert's an awesome guy and a guy who doesn't get too many goals on the season so it's great for him and a great result for us to go in the right direction."

On his postgame plans:

Cortez: Oh, I'm taking an ice bath, man. My legs are way too sore, I need to take an ice bath and relax.

Kevon Lambert

On the feeling of getting a goal:

"It's a really great feeling. I can't even explain who I feel right now to be scoring in this type of game and helping the team to move on to the finals. It's a really good feeling."

On the impact of last year's playoff matchup between these sides:

"We just treated it like a normal game. We came out with a game plan and we stuck to it. We stuck to what the coaches told us to do, and I think it paid off. Well, it definitely paid off because we're now moving to the final."

On what the team needs to do to keep progressing:

Lambert: Just keep on with what we've been doing all season. Keeping up the hard work and I think we'll do it. The coaches will prepare us for this game as usual and we'll get the job done as usual.

On the amount of leg work he puts in:

"I don't know how much I run, to be honest, but I feel great so I had to do what I had to do to help the team."

On what the team did differently in the second half:

"I think we just exercised a little bit more patience, and we just sit back a little bit and wait for them to make some mistakes, and then we just punished them."

On his celebration:

"I've had that in the locker for a while now. [Follow up: Have you practiced that?] Nah, I just had it in the locker."

On the home atmosphere:

"It's really good. The fans were supporting us. They're always supporting us. We appreciate them. We hope to see them next week again and hope to do what we always do."

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