Rapids’ rookie Sam Hamilton scored his first goal as a professional on Saturday, as Phoenix Rising FC defeated the top team in the USL, Real Monarchs SLC, 2-0.
Hamilton, who was loaned to Rising FC on August 10, bundled home the Arizona club’s opening goal on 29 minutes. Jason Johnson made sure of the points with the second 17 minutes from time.
Rising FC welcomed the return of Ivory Coast superstar Didier Drogba. He came on for the last five minutes, for his first appearance since August 5. Rapids on-loan goalkeeper, John Berner, was an unused substitute.
Victory extended Rising FC’s unbeaten run to eight games (5-0-3), and kept them seventh in the Western Conference, though they are now level on points with sixth-place Tulsa Roughnecks FC (40).
Having won four of the last five, Rising FC are at Seattle Sounders FC 2 on Wednesday. The Sounders are without a win in four, and were beaten 2-0 in Phoenix at the start of the month.
The Rapids’ USL affiliate, Charlotte Independence, missed an opportunity to gain ground on Eastern Conference leaders Louisville City FC on Saturday, needing a last-minute equalizer from Lewis Hilton to salvage a point at home to lowly Ottawa Fury in a 1-1 tie. Ottawa have now drawn four in a row, and are without a win in seven, since toppling the Independence 3-1 at home on August 12.
Louisville, who had tied Bethlehem Steel 2-2 on Friday night, remain three points clear of the Independence in the East, with a game in hand.
The top four in the Eastern Conference are all involved in midweek action. Charlotte (48 points), in second, go to third-place Charleston Battery (44) on Wednesday. Leaders Louisville (51) host Rochester Rhinos (43).