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Phoenix FC

With travails on and off field, Phoenix FC ends month with loss

Toia scores fifth of season with help from Paul

Despite their numerous struggles, Phoenix FC had a fairly decent July on the field. They logged three wins, including a 4 - 0 thrashing of the Charlotte Eagles last Saturday. Unfortunately, they ended the month on a bad note with a 3 - 1 loss to the Harrisburg City Islanders on Wednesday night at Phoenix's Reach 11 Sports Complex.

Harrisburg outshot Phoenix in the first half, with former FC Tucson standout Donny Toia registering the Wolves only shot versus five looks at goal for the visitors. The offensive show from the City Islanders paid off in the 24th minute with a goal from Matt Bahner, his first in 20 appearances for the team this season.

Phoenix didn't do much retooling at the half, their injury-shortened bench didn't give them many options. Despite this, they found a hole in the Harrisburg defense as David Paul sent the ball to Donny Toia, still listed as a defender despite playing up top, who found the back of the net to give his team the tie and hope to win their first match at their new home.

"I figured we couldn't go down the middle anymore," said Paul after the match. "I got a good ball down and I turned my head and saw him running down the line. I figured if I put it over the defender's shoulder, Donny would do the rest. Quality finish."

Harrisburg regaining the lead can be attributed to Luck, more precisely former Michigan Bucks player Lucky Mkosana. The Zimbabwean headed a delivery from fellow City Islander Morgan Langley towards the near post for his team's second goal.

Phoenix's Toia, Paul and Devon Grousis all logged shots late in the half, but few tested Harrisburg keeper Nicolas Noble. A late missile off the foot of former Ventura County Fusion player Jamiel Hardware sealed the victory for Harrisburg in the 90th minute.

Even with the loss, Phoenix still has a respectable home record of 4 - 3 - 5 and 22 points on the season. They close out their schedule with home matches against the Charleston Battery on Aug. 10 and against the Rochester Rhinos on Aug. 16.

The new guys

It would take a whole article to list the travails that FC Phoenix has had over the last few weeks. One very noticeable one is on their bench. Seven players, including stalwarts Travis Bowen and Netinho, are out with injury. Scottish veteran Darren Mackie never made the contributions that were expected of him and both Andrew Weber and Renan Boufleur have moved on to other teams.

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This has given other players a chance to get on the field. Former FC Tucson player Reid Schmitt, who struggled to even get playing time at the start of the season, is now a regular starter. Two new players have found a spot in the line-up as well.

David Paul made the longest trek to play for the Wolves. He spent the last two seasons with Puszcza Niepołomice, a team in Poland's II Liga. He score eight goals for the team in those seasons, and helped Puszcza get promoted to I Liga, Poland's second tier. Still, he didn't fit in with the team's plans and joined his hometown team in July.

"Walking on the field, I was almost tearful. Just glad to be home," Paul said of his first home match since joining the club. "I'm glad to see supporters that are really strong. I've grown really close to this club since I've been here. I'm just glad to be here."

"It's the first pro game my family has got to see me in," he said. "I got an assist, but I should have had a couple of goals."

"I wish those posts were bigger," he laughed.

David Armstrong on the other hand, didn't have to leave the time zone. The loanee from the Colorado Rapids arrived in Phoenix Wednesday morning. He still had to get used to one thing.

"I knew it was going to be hot. I didn't know it was going to be this hot," the Denver area native said.

"I think it's a great team. We need to tweak things, read each other better," he said of his new squad. "I can't be on the same page with a lot of them because I'm still getting the chemistry, but I think things are going well. We're just getting the clicks."

La Furia a bit furious

The game was the first for the team at Reach 11, a small venue on the northern edge of Phoenix. It's a step down from playing at ASU's soccer stadium and talk before the season of averaging 4,000 fans per game. Although they had an impressive 4198 for their opener against VSI Tampa Bay, the team has not come close to that again. For some, the scaling back is an indication of bigger problems in the organization.

"I don't really like it. I'm a little disappointed," said Micah Black, a member of La Furia Roja, Phoenix FC's supporters' group. "Some things are understandable. There are certain financial things that they are dealing with. I don't think they are handling it the right way, at least from the fans' perspective."

"I don't think there is a sense of urgency," he said, standing in the still enthusiastic but smaller than earlier in the season Furia Roja crowd. "No sense for the fans of being wanted."

He pointed to problems earlier this season when the team originally scaled back seating at ASU and to troubles notifying fans and dealing with season ticket holders after the move to Reach 11.

"I'm just frustrated because I think they are doing the wrong thing to sustain a fan base. We are going to be here no matter what," he said of La Furia Roja. "These people here care enough to come up here. There are a lot of people that won't be here next season, which will be very unfortunate."

Despite a smaller LFR contingent at the game, the group was still in full voice throughout the match. David Paul likened them to crowds he saw in Poland.

"It's very comparable: a lot of music, a lot of passion," Paul said. "These fans are putting as much passion on the field as we are. It's nice to be matched. I love these guys...we've got some top quality fans out here."

Black, setting aside trouble with the team management, wants to continue to support the players.

"We are behind them 100 percent, and they know that." he said. "We want them to succeed and we want them to be here next year. Any displeasure we have is with the front office."


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Phoenix FC

Two goal scorers struggle: Phoenix FC's Donny Toia and Harrisburg's Matt Bahner battle for the ball.

Phoenix FC v Harrisburg City Islanders

Reach 11 Sports Complex, Phoenix

  • Scoring summary
  • HAR: Mathew Bahner (24')
  • PHX: Donny Toia (50')
  • HAR: Luckymore Mkosana (67')
  • HAR: Jamiel Hardware (90')
  • Misconduct summary
  • HAR: Matthew Bahner (caution, 60')
  • HAR: Coady Andrews (caution, 72')
  • PHX: Scott Morrison (caution, 75')
  • Harrisburg City Islanders: Nicholas Noble - Coady Andrews, Stephen Basso, Colin Zizzi - Tom Mellor (James McLaughlin 72'), Jason Pelletier, Andrew Ribeiro, Matthew Bahner - Yann Ekra (Jamiel Hardware 85'), Morgan Langley (Kenneth Caseros 79'), Mkosana Luckymore (Sainey Touray 68')
  • Phoenix FC: Neal Kitson - Devon Grousis, Cyprian Hedrick, Isiah Schaffer, Donny Toia - Scott Morrison, Anthony Obodai, David Paul, Reid Schmitt (Roberto Valadez Paz 70') - David Armstrong (Cameron Vickers 75'), Thomas Ramos