Photo courtesy of Phoenix Rising FC
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Every touch or significant moment from soccer legend Didier Drogba took center stage during Saturday’s USL debut for Phoenix Rising FC. After compiling several chances, Drogba delivered his first league goal – a 40th-minute header – and assisted Shaun Wright-Phillips’ second-half tally as Rising FC earned a 2-1 victory against Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 in front of a sellout crowd of 7,062 at Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex. WFC2’s Marco Bustos converted a 68th-minute penalty kick for the equalizer, but Wright-Phillips responded nine minutes later for the winner. Phoenix improves to 5-5-0 (15 points) overall and 4-2-0 at home. Vancouver falls to 4-6-2 (14 points) overall and 2-4-1 on the road.
40’ – PHX – Didier Drogba (Amadou Dia)
68’ – VAN – Marco Bustos (penalty)
77’ – PHX – Shaun Wright-Phillips (Didier Drogba)
#PHXvVAN: Full match and Opta box score
Three Things That Mattered:
1. The moment that Rising FC fans wanted came to fruition in the 40th minute as Didier Drogba tallied his first goal in the USL to give Phoenix a first-half lead. The sequence started from Jason Johnson on the left side as he dribbled ahead, fended off his defender and fed to Amadou Dia. Dia collected, eluded his defender and provided a right-footed cross toward the far right post and above the six-yard area. Drogba rose up for the header, which WFC2 goalkeeper Sean Melvin managed to get a glove on. Melvin wasn’t able to do enough to redirect the shot as Drogba found the score sheet and ran to the corner flag in celebration. Drogba later would set up Shaun Wright-Phillips in the 77th minute, and Wright-Phillips’ shot split Vancouver defender Cole Seiler’s legs and found the inside of the far left post for a 2-1 lead.
2. Before the goal, Drogba and Rising FC challenged Melvin with regularity. Drogba’s first weighty moment came in the third minute and was a potential assist – a combination with his former Chelsea teammate Wright-Phillips, who forced Melvin into an early save. In the 15th minute, Drogba’s chipped free kick to the left of the box was top-shelf-bound as Melvin got a touch to deflect it off of the crossbar. Omar Bravo was there for a second attempt, but his volley went over the bar. In the 29th minute, Drogba eyed the right side of the frame from 24 yards out with a blistering shot as Melvin dove to his left for a strong save. In the 36th minute, Drogba’s header off of a Wright-Phillips cross hit the underside of the crossbar but didn’t cross the goal line as he beat Melvin on that chance and was only a couple inches from notching his first USL goal.
3. Vancouver possessed for more than 60 percent of the first half, but during the opening 45 minutes was only able to put one shot on frame. Kyle Greig was the early threat as his sixth-minute attempt forced Rising FC goalkeeper Josh Cohen to make a crucial foot save during a frantic opening to Saturday’s match. In the second half, Vancouver finally found a break as Nazeem Bartman was taken down by Kody Wakasa in the box. Marco Bustos took the subsequent penalty kick, a left-footed strike in the 68th minute past a diving Cohen who anticipated correctly. The tied score would last for less than 10 minutes as Phoenix found the winner.
USLSoccer.com Man of the Match:
Dider Drogba, Phoenix Rising FC – Drogba debuted, dazzled and delivered as his first USL goal served as a momentous occasion, to go along with an assist to Shaun Wright-Phillips’ winner.
Phoenix Rising FC at Swope Park Rangers – June 18, 5 p.m. ET, Children’s Mercy Victory Field
Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 at Sacramento Republic FC – June 17, 11 p.m. ET, Papa Murphy’s Park