Phoenix Rising FC saw its opportunity to get a victory over a previously winless team swept away on a windy evening, suffering a 4-0 loss against Reno 1868 FC on Saturday night in Scottsdale.
Forward Dane Kelly, the all-time leading scorer in USL history, added a hat trick to his career total with goals in the second, sixth and 66th minutes of the match. Kelly has five goals this season and 53 in his USL career.
Chris Wehan added Reno’s fourth goal in the 77th minute. Lindo Mfeka assisted on two of 1868’s goals.
The match marked the debut of Rick Schantz as interim head coach of Phoenix Rising. Schantz took over for Frank Yallop, who resigned on April 24.
Rising (2-3-0) had its two-game winning streak come to an end and allowed the most goals in a match this season. Reno, an expansion team in its inaugural campaign, won its first game in club history.
“The intensity that we’d shown the past couple of weeks wasn’t there,” Rising defender Peter Ramage said. “We caused our own problems tonight … this could be the reality check that we need to put us back in check after the two victories we had. We still have a lot of things to work on.”
Striker Didier Drogba, the international star of Chelsea and Ivory Coast World Cup fame, did not suit up on Saturday. The Rising player/part owner watched from an open-air suite and is at least a couple of weeks away from his first game action, Schantz indicated.
“He’s been training now for two weeks, so unless he feels magically better in the next week or two, but you never know. He’s Didier Drogba,” Schantz said.
Reno (1-3-2) was on the board even before many in the crowd at Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex were in their seats. Kelly, with room to dribble, brought the ball to the top of the 18-yard box and skimmed a low bouncer past Rising goalkeeper Josh Cohen not two minutes into the action.
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The Phoenix defense was jolted again when Brian Brown slotted a pass to his left to Kelly, who was open again for his second goal.
?“Not the start we wanted,” Schantz said. “Midfield turnovers. You make two bad mistakes in the first seven or eight minutes and it’s tough because then you’ve got to chase the game, and it’s just not the type of team that we are.”
Rising had chances to score but could not pull one back in the first half. A Chris Cortez free kick was saved by Matt Bersano in the eighth minute, and Cortez shot the ball well over the goal in Minute 17.
Luke Rooney missed a shot wide in the 42nd minute.
Reno almost added to its lead in the 44th. Brown got free and avoided an offsides call, his first shot knocked back to him by Cohen. Brown had what appeared to be an open net on the rebound, but Rising defender Jordan Stewart hustled to the goal mouth to deflect Brown’s second try.
With Phoenix pushed forward to try for a goal, Kelly took a pass from Mfeka, made a move into the box to clear space and caromed a shot off the far post and into the net for his third goal.
“They were backing up, so alI had to do was push it and take a shot, and hopefully it goes in, which it did,” Kelly said.
The match, Rising’s first since April 23, drew 6,067 fans, just short of an official sellout. It was the first non-capacity crowd in four home games for Phoenix Rising.