Photo courtesy of Phoenix Rising FC
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – The anticipated USL debut of Chelsea legend and Phoenix Rising FC Didier Drogba certainly went according to plan in the eyes of the Rising FC organization and the 7,062 on hand at Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex:
One goal. One assist. One memorable victory.
Drogba led the charge during a 2-1 victory against Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2, tallying a first-half goal and assisting Shaun Wright-Phillips’ second-half winner to mark a momentous start to a new chapter for the 39-year-old striker.
“It always feels good to score a goal, and it’s nice to make history,” Drogba said,” but that’s not the most important for me.”
Drogba and Rising FC ultimately know that the barometer of success will be in the talent-laden club’s quest for a first postseason berth and legitimate run at a title. Lost amid the hoopla of Drogba was also the debut of Rising FC Head Coach Patrice Carteron, who notched a victory in the short time he has been with the team.
WFC2 posed a formidable first opponent for Carteron.
“We had only two days to prepare for this game, so it was not that easy,” Carteron said. “I think we had to change after the first 20, 25 minutes tactically, dealing with the other side specifically. I decided that Shaun should play out on the right in the formation and Omar [Bravo] for to play up with Didier in the attack was the best thing. That’s why we organized our team in two lines of four for the rest of the game, and they had a lot of young talented players on their team. I think as a team we will get better physically and tactically, defensively we have a few things to work on. But I am happy with these three points.”
Like everyone else watching Saturday’s match on hand or abroad, Carteron was taken in by the contributions of Drogba, who joined Rising FC as a player and co-owner in mid-April.
“It’s not only tonight, the history, everywhere he’s been,” Carteron said. “I don’t know if in the history of the league if an owner of the club is also a player and is scoring goals, so it’s the first one ever, so I’m really happy for the atmosphere in the town and in the club is absolutely fantastic.
“I’m really happy for the board members because they did something fantastic in a few months and of course Didier is part of it. Congratulations to them. They deserve a great team in Phoenix and we are going to give everything for our fans to be happy every game we play.”
Phoenix improved to a .500 record (5-5-0, 15 points), and the remainder of June will not be an easy task. Rising FC travels to face the Swope Park Rangers (next Sunday), hosts red-hot Real Monarchs SLC (June 24) and travels to Reno to take on 1868 FC (June 30).
The mix of veteran leadership and clutch moments from Drogba brought another level of energy to an organization already brimming with excitement and high expectations.
“People have to play to that potential, which is fantastic for the team and the club,” Wright-Phillips said.
“Didier let most of the fun come to him, and he showed that he is still a great player,” Carteron said. “He did his job, scored a goal and had a good pass to Shaun today. I am really happy for him, really happy for the fans, Phoenix Rising and happy for all of you to see such a good player.”