Phoenix Rising’s 20th straight win sullied as referees abandon match over player safety

Players surround L.A. Galaxy II forward Augustine Williams after he was hit by an object thrown from the stands in a game against Phoenix Rising FC. The game was called out of concern for player safety. (Photo courtesy Shawn Medow via ESPN+)

SCOTTSDALE – It was supposed to be a night of celebration. Phoenix Rising FC, on a tear the likes of which the USL Championship has never seen, was a mere six minutes from securing the top spot in the Western Conference playoffs when an object rained down from the stands of Casino Arizona Field.

Referees acted quickly and stopped the game, ushering players from Rising and L.A. Galaxy II off the pitch. But a separate fan threw a second object and hit a Galaxy II player in the lower back, according to a statement from Phoenix Rising FC.

Within minutes, referees called the match and awarded Rising its 20th consecutive victory, though far from the fashion the team and its fans have come to expect. Under league rules, a match can be abandoned after the 70th minute of play as long as one team is ahead by at least three goals. Rising was up 4-1 in the 84th minute prior when the game was called.

In the statement provided the following day, the team pointed to “a non-Phoenix Rising supporter” as the original offender.

“In the midst of this exhilarating atmosphere, a non-Phoenix Rising supporter allowed his frustration to get the best of him when he threw an object onto the field,” the statement reads.

A Rising fan then retaliated, according to the club. Former Cronkite News reporter Owain Evans was at the game and said Galaxy forward Augustine Williams was the player hit, though neither Rising or Galaxy II opted to identify the player or his status as of Monday afternoon.

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Red Fury, a group of Rising supporters, confirmed reports on Monday that several of its members “quickly identified and apprehended” the first fan seen throwing an object onto the field. The group said in a statement that the fan, who was turned over to stadium security, wasn’t wearing any club-affiliated clothing.

“We pride ourselves on being loud and raucous in our support of Phoenix Rising,” the statement read in part, “but in doing so in a positive manner.”

Los Bandidos Futbol Firm, another passionate group in Rising’s supporters section, responded to the suspension with a statement directed at the club’s fans.

“Supporters who’ve followed the local side couldn’t ask for more from the team,” the group said. “We need to savor every moment and exercise our passion with dignity. Let’s not ruin the best run the city’s ever seen.”

The two fans in question, neither of whom have been identified, were banned from the stadium, Rising said.

Despite Saturday night’s theatrics, Rising have had a near-unblemished season. Fueled by breakout do-it-all midfielder Solomon Asante, the club has a 22-2-5 record and has even broken into national consciousness for one of those stranger-than-fiction stories often native to sports. Since debuting its promotional Friday Dollar Beer Night in 2017, the club is a perfect 14-0 on nights the promotion runs.

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Cronkite News reported in June that on an average Friday, the team sells more cans of Bud Light than tickets. While Rising has made no direct connection to alcohol playing a factor in Saturday’s incident, the club did announce it would be selling plastic cups in lieu of cans for the remainder of the season.

Rising Vice President Sam Doerr tweeted several times following the match, strongly condemning the alleged actions of the two fans, which he called unbelievable, unacceptable and embarrassing. He concluded by tweeting “nobody should ever feel unsafe at our [house].”

Sports Reporter, Phoenix