Phoenix Rising defeat LA Galaxy II behind 2 goals from Luis Seijas
On Tuesday, Phoenix Rising manager Rick Schantz acknowledged that his team had a "tough" week ahead of them with three games in seven days.
Meanwhile, LA Galaxy II, their Saturday opponent, would be resting the next day while Rising played in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup against Valley United FC.
That didn't matter to Phoenix, who came in energized off of back-to-back wins to defeat LA Galaxy II 3-1 in front of a passionate home crowd at Wild Horse Pass. The win moved Phoenix to above-.500 in USL play and marked a career day for midfielder Luis Seijas, who scored two of Rising's goals.
"Everybody wants to beat Phoenix Rising," Schantz said. "We have to understand that every time we take the field, it doesn't matter who we're playing. It's going to be extremely difficult and we've got to be ready for it. I think these guys are starting to figure that out."
After Wednesday's win over Valley United, Schantz believed that his squad did not play with the tenacity and urgency that epitomized their most recent USL victory, a 2-0 triumph over San Antonio FC on the road.
Early on Saturday night, his squad made sure to play differently.
Rising — who ranked third in the USL with 68 shots heading into Saturday's match — went on the offensive with a fast pace that culminated in long passes downfield and enough room for Phoenix players to receive crosses and set up shot opportunities.
This resulted in five shots within the first 15 minutes. Even though LA Galaxy II forward Michael Salazar fired a rocket in the first minute to open the game, it was the team's only shot attempt of the first half.
"This is a resilient group," forward Marcus Epps said. "We spoke on it before the game. We spoke on it at halftime. We wanted to get a clean sheet and if not, we wanted to be tough defensively (and) make it hard for other teams to score on us. And that showed."
Schantz's aggressive strategy eventually paid off in the 31st minute, as midfielder Aodhan Quinn slid to the ground to avoid a Galaxy II defender and his pass found a wide-open Seijas. With room to work with, he dribbled upfield and sensing no opposition, fired a shot from far back in the opposing third. His high-arcing shot bounced off the hands of Galaxy II goalie Richard Sanchez and into the back of the net, sending celebratory red smoke into the sky.
LA Galaxy II failed to make any adjustments to slow Phoenix's up-tempo offensive attack, giving up four shots following the tie-breaking score. The next attempt proved costly, as Quinn sent a long corner kick to the box in the 42nd minute. Deflected by Sanchez, the ball rolled into an open space that was soon occupied by Seijas, who sent a line-drive through a cluster of players for his second goal of the night.
Seijas, who signed with Rising in 2021, not only gave Phoenix a 2-0 lead heading into halftime, but also contributed to Phoenix's 14-1 shot advantage.
"We created a lot of chances," Seijas said. "In soccer, you need to (shoot) on target. My dad always said to me, 'Just do your thing.' This night, both shots went in and I'm so happy about it."
The next 45 minutes started similarly to the previous, with LA Galaxy II taking the first shot of the half. Yet their momentum continued, taking two consecutive shots on Rising goalie Ben Lundt.
Phoenix continued to find gaps, however, in the opposing lineup and fire shots, raising the confidence of the fans in attendance at Wild Horse Pass. In the 63rd minute, they collectively did a wave across the stadium.
The excitement soon grew towards concern. Five minutes later, Salazar found midfielder Remi Cabral in the box, who fired a shot past Lundt to the bottom left corner that cut Rising's lead in half.
"I was really disappointed in the way they got the goal because it was just a straight long ball over the top," Schantz said. "If I could have said anything, it would have been (that) we've got to really be hungry and aggressive in those moments."
LA Galaxy II continued pressing Rising, yet Phoenix didn't relent. Rising players stepped up to block shots and turned their opponent's misses into their advantages, using possession changes to move the ball towards the opposing third and put pressure back on Sanchez.
Even though Phoenix's opponent found more offensive success in the second half, Schantz's squad did not falter. In fact, he was proud that they "sorted it out."
When Epps' game-sealing goal in the 90th minute clinched victory, it meant more than just a notch in the win column.
It marked three straight wins.
It also marked a special day for Seijas. Not only did he have his first two-goal game in a Rising uniform, but also his family was in town from Venezuela to see it all.
"(It) was a very emotional night for me," Seijas said.
This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Phoenix Rising defeat LA Galaxy II behind 2 goals from Luis Seijas