The Phoenix Rising.
All three of those things have something in common. The last time the Rising won a United Soccer League playoff matchup in regular time was five years ago. That trend continued on Saturday night.
Playing at the exact same site where they last advanced to the Western Conference Finals in 2019, the Phoenix Rising seem to have a soft spot in their heart for Championship Soccer Stadium as they beat Orange County SC, 2-1, on a late goal in the 116th minute from midfielder Emil Cuello in the second round of the USL playoffs to keep their title hopes alive.
Last week it was Dariusz Formella in the 119th minute.
This week it was Cuello in the 116th minute.
With the win, the Rising will again make another trip to California for the Western Conference Final matchup against Sacramento Republic FC, but this time will head up north after playing San Diego last week. The game will be on Saturday, Nov. 4 at 7 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPN+.
The game got off to a perfect start for the Rising, which conceded within 10 minutes last week in the first round against San Diego. The Rising were aggressive in the attacking third to open the game and struck first in the seventh minute when midfielder Carlos Harvey launched a long pass to forward Danny Trejo, who then used two beautiful touches of the ball to slip it behind goalkeeper Colin Shutler to go ahead, 1-0.
It was reminiscent of last week, when the same sequence happened in the 42nd minute to tie up the game — a long Harvey pass to Trejo followed up by some nifty moves to finish it off.
But the urgency seemed to dissipate for the Rising after their opening goal. It was as if the Rising took the foot off the gas pedal. The rest of the first half was all Orange County from a pressure and creation standpoint.
The crossbar saved the Rising just 10 minutes later as Orange County forward Milan Iloski rocketed a shot that looked like a sure-fire goal until it rung against the top of the goalposts.
Orange County kept applying pressure from there, and were rewarded in the 24th minute after left back Ryan Doghman assisted striker Thomas Amang following some questionable defending from the Rising.
Doghman was left wide open down the left side of the field, allowing for him to easily find Amang in the box without any pressure in his face. It was a goal that had been coming.
In the first half, Orange County recorded 10 shot attempts before the Rising reached their second.
The second half was a much tighter affair for both teams as each defense clamped down with the clock ticking down. There were only five total shot attempts in the final 45 minutes.
There was a key moment in the 78th minute for the Rising as Trejo got in behind the defense following a poorly-timed tackle from Orange County, but the sideline official had already risen the flag for offsides. Another offsides call negated another goal from Formella in the 84th minute.
Then in the 87th minute, Amang seemed through on to goal before contact with two Rising defenders brought him down in the box. Amang, and seemingly all of Championship Soccer Stadium, clamored for a penalty. But referee Calin Radosav called for a goal kick.
That was the peak of the action in the second half before extra time.
This game seemed well on its way to penalties when midfielder Emil Cuello, who came on as a substitute for Harvey, took a pass from forward Erickson Gallardo — another substitute — and slotted it in the top of the net to put a dagger in the hearts of Orange County and their fans.
This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Rising beat Orange County 2-1 to advance to USL Western Conference Final