Flemmings strike in vain as Phoenix taste upset
Reggae Boyz forward Junior Flemmings's first-half strike was not enough as heavy favourites Phoenix Rising FC suffered a massive upset, going down 2-1 to Real Monarchs SLC in the Western Conference semi-final last weekend.
The 23-year-old gave the hosts the lead in the 25th minute in a well-worked move but Jack Blake and Maikel Chang answered for the visitors in the first half, to put their side up at the half-time whistle.
Both sides then squandered excellent chances in a goalless second half, as Real Monarchs secured a berth in the conference final against El Paso Locomotive FC, who beat Sacramento Republic 3-0 in Texas.
Phoenix had entered the playoffs on the backs of a stunning regular season performance, having won 24 of their 34 matches and lost just four to top the standings, 18 points clear of the second placed team.
They also made history with a 20-game winning streak.
Ironically, their last defeat in the regular season came in a 2-1 loss at the hands of Real Monarch, and they failed to avenge that loss when it mattered most.
Flemmings opened the scoring for them, however, getting on to the end of a lovely through-ball from Adam Jahn and sliding his finish behind the diving goalkeeper David Ochoa.
That joy was short-lived as Blake equalised eight minutes later, smashing a volley from 20 yards out after being teed up by Douglas Martinez.
And Real took the lead for good two minutes from the break when Chang held off his markers to squeeze his shot in at the near post from 15 yards.
There was a similar upset in Pittsburgh where the hosts Riverhounds, who topped the Eastern Conference tables, went down 2-1 to Jamaican Devon Williams's Louisville City FC.
In the other conference semi-final in downtown Nashville, Jamaican Dane Kelly's Indy Eleven edged Nashville SC 1-0.