Dream start for Drogba with goal, assist in win over Whitecaps FC 2

Phoenix Rising FC's Didier Drogba, left, heads the ball into the net in the first half against Whitecaps FC 2 June 10, 2017 at the Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex in Scottsdale, Ariz. Photo by Aaron Blau/Firebird Rising
Phoenix Rising FC’s Didier Drogba, left, heads the ball into the net in the first half against Whitecaps FC 2 June 10, 2017 at the Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex in Scottsdale, Ariz. Photo by Aaron Blau/Firebird Rising

It only took him five tries, but Didier Drogba finally found the back of the net, and Shaun Wright-Phillips scored in the second half from Drogba as Phoenix Rising FC defeated Whitecaps FC 2 2-1 Saturday at the Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex in front of 7,062 fans.

Drogba’s first attempt came in the 15th minute, when his free kick found the crossbar. His second chance came 10 minutes later off another free kick, which was knocked out by Sean Melvin. Five minutes later, he had a third attempt that was saved by Melvin. And a fourth came in the 35th minute off a pass from Shaun Wright-Phillips that hit the crossbar.

But the goal finally came in the 40th minute, when new signee Amadou Dia whipped in a cross to Drogba, who headed it past Sean Melvin for the 1-0 lead.

Phoenix Rising had many chances in the first half other than Drogba. In the fourth minute, Wright-Phillips and Drogba had a 1-2 combination, and Melvin came up with the save. In the 28th minute, Kody Wakasa found the head of Wright-Phillips who pushed his header over the bar.

Omar Bravo had a shot in the 30th minute off a corner, but his shot was cleared off the line by Whitecaps FC 2 defender Marco Bustos, who took the shot square in the face and was down on the pitch for a couple minutes.

Jason Johnson tried to get in on the action in the 34th minute when he made a great individual run down the field, but his shot on the short side just missed the net.

Whitecaps FC 2 were only able to muster two chances in the first half, both by forward Kyle Greig. Greig beat an offside trap in the sixth minute only to be denied by goalkeeper Josh Cohen, who made an excellent right foot save. Greig had a chance in first half stoppage time, but he hit one over the bar.

The chances continued to come for Phoenix Rising in the second half. Johnson had two chances in the first five minutes, making an individual run only to have his shot saved by Melvin. Three minutes later, Johnson and Wright-Phillips would hook up, and Johnson tried to chip it over Melvin, but he blocked it out.

Wright-Phillips would have a chance in the 57th minute, but he drilled his shot right into the midsection of Melvin.

Bravo and Drogba would hook up in the 64th minute, but Drogba’s shot would go just wide on the right.

Whitecaps FC 2 would tie the game in the 68th minute. Wakasa fouled Naazem Bartman in the penalty box and Bustos stepped up and knocked the PK past Cohen to tie the game at 1-1.

But Phoenix Rising would not be denied. Drogba took a ball up the center of the pitch and passed it off right to Wright-Phillips, who hit a low screamer to the right past Melvin for a 2-1 lead.

Whitecaps FC 2 had a chance in the final minute of stoppage time, where a shot was parried away by Cohen, and the subsequent corner hit the side netting as the final whistle blew.

Phoenix Rising FC next plays on the road Sunday, June 18 at Swope Park Rangers.

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