It’s okay to look at the 2019 Phoenix Rising FC season as a major success and a frustrating disappointment.
When it comes to sports, also the world in general, there’s a natural instinct to want to look at a result or event with a singular focus. Last night, record-breaking Phoenix Rising FC lost in the Western Conference semifinals to Real Monarchs SLC at Casino Arizona Field. With the playoff loss, it’s easy for supporters of opposing clubs, pundits, and everyone else to tear down the regular season-winning campaign for Phoenix. But, it’s important to understand that this season can be looking at as an overwhelming success for the club, as well as a disappointing letdown.
Across the 2019 season, Rising FC captivated the attention of soccer fans and media across the country with their historic winning streak, their Dollar Beer Night success, and their MVP front-runner, Solomon Asante. Whether it was a blowout win in the desert or a one-goal win late in the match, Phoenix just kept winning. They smashed records and they were dominant at both ends of the pitch. Entering the postseason, it seemed to be a foregone conclusion that they would take the USL Championship crown in mid-November. That type of success and expectations make this season a success for Phoenix Rising FC. Their fan base continues to grow and they will have their place in the league’s record books until another team has a historic season.
— Phoenix Rising FC (@PHXRisingFC) October 19, 2019
But, this season’s success would have been fully validated by Rising hoisting the elusive cup that they narrowly missed last season on a cold night in Louisville. There were comparisons made to this year’s LAFC side in Major League Soccer and the 73-win Golden State Warriors team that lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals. While that doesn’t completely wipe out the success of this season for Phoenix, it absolutely puts a damper on a historic season. I’d expect that there is nobody in the Rising organization that is saying, “Well, this season went perfectly for us because we did so well in the regular season”. No team enters the season only wanting to win the regular-season trophy, despite how comfortably they won that distinction.
As we now look back on the season, it’s unfair to characterize the season as solely a failure or solely a success. The facts are that they were an unbelievable regular-season team and they struggled in an opening-round win before bouncing early from the postseason. That doesn’t make them a “fraud” or unlikely in the playoffs, that’s just how it goes sometimes. It was an exciting, engaging season for Phoenix Rising FC and that’s a fact.