Logging thousands of miles around the Southwest in a bus the past few weeks was bound to catch up with New Mexico United.
Saturday night, the road warriors suffered a blowout.
Junior Flemmings registered a hat trick and Phoenix Rising FC smothered New Mexico United in a 5-2 win at Casino Arizona Field in Scottsdale on Saturday night.
After a brilliant fifth-minute header goal from outside the 18-yard for United striker Romero Parkes, including an equally spectacular backflip celebration, Rising mastered the same sort of high-paced, high-pressure attack that had led New Mexico to be unbeaten through the first four matches since the USL Championship’s July 11 season restart.
— New Mexico United (@NewMexicoUTD) August 9, 2020
It was United’s sixth road match of the 16-game season — one United will have at most six home matches and none before September at the earliest.
United falls to 3-2-1, but with 10 points remains atop the Group C standings (El Paso Locomotive is in second place with eight points after a 4-2 win at Colorado Springs earlier in the night).
Andrew Tinari back-heeled a goal into the net from inside the 6-yard box off a second-half corner to cut the lead to 3-2 — a ball that somehow managed to come to rest in the middle of several United players within a couple paces of the goal and several Rising defenders looking lost.
But barring that lapse, Rising, and Flemmings, rarely looked like anything but the better squad Saturday. And despite the well-over 100-plus-degree temperature throughout the night, Rising (4-1-1) never seemed to get fatigued or slow down.
Flemmings sprinted his way to a breakaway equalizer in the box in the 17th minute and Rising took the 2-1 lead just five minutes later in the 22nd minute when forward Rufat Dadashov, flirting with being offsides deep in the box, instead got his left foot on a crisp Solomon Asante cross, redirecting it from five yards out past NMU keeper Cody Mizell into the back of the net.
Flemmings added goals two (73rd minute) and three (86) on the night — he has seven on the season — for the 5-2 win.
United had plenty of chances against last year’s Western Conference champion. Parkes and Amando Moreno, who was impressive in setting up Parkes’ early header, were both aggressive and created plenty of scoring opportunities, but it was clear on Saturday that Rising rose to the occasion against its new rival that it played three times to draws in 2019 (United won on penalty kicks in a non-USL Championship match that was part of the U.S. Open Cup).
Also, Chris Wehan’s four-match goal streak came to an end and Devon Sandoval missed his second-consecutive match with a lower back injury.
There were four yellow cards in the match — two for each team in a series that saw 18 yellow cards drawn in the three matches in 2019 — 13 for United, five for Rising.
United, which was to bus back to New Mexico overnight Saturday, hits the road again for its next match next Saturday at Colorado Springs.