Phoenix Rising’s unbeaten streak hit five games in Irvine, Calif., after Didier Drogba’s exceptional free kick in stoppage time cancelled out Roy Meeus’ 84th-minute goal.
Phoenix Rising Starting XI: GK- Cohen, D- Vasquez, Dia, Ramage, Wakasa, MF- Timm, Gavin, Watson, Wright-Phillips, F- Bravo, Drogba
Orange County SC Starting XI: GK- Lyon, D- Sorto, Meeus, Franco, Navarro, MF- Pineda, Villalobos, Chaplow, Stevanovic, Alvarez, F- Fernandes
Match Recap: Phoenix Rising controlled play from the start. In the 18th minute, Victor Vasquez provided an excellent ball for Omar Bravo, but Roy Meeus saved Orange County with his clearance. Omar Bravo came even closer to breaking the deadlock five minutes later when his glancing header skimmed off the crossbar. Then Monday Etim replaced Carlos Alvarez for Orange County in the 28th minute after Alvarez suffered an injury.
Drogba came close to scoring in the 42nd minute. His 40-yard free kick was destined for the top right corner, but Charlie Lyon pushed the ball over the bar. Bravo played a ball across the face of goal for Drogba in added time, but a defender cleared it away. It remained 0-0 at halftime, and Shaun Wright-Phillips was subbed off for Eric Avila.
Orange County upped its intensity in the second half. Miguel Timm picked up a yellow card in the 50th minute. Then the home side forced Josh Cohen into two key saves, including one on a screamer from Wuilito Fernandes.
Phoenix pushed to break the deadlock as Drogba won a free kick and forced Lyon into a save. Things got chippy after Fernandes and Meeus committed dirty fouls on Drogba. Meeus received a yellow card and then appeared to shove Drogba. The Ivorian pushed back before walking away, but that was enough to earn a yellow card.
Moments later, Meeus added insult to injury with an 84th-minute free kick goal. The opportunity arose after Cohen foolishly handled the ball outside the box, and Meeus’ free kick went through the Firebird wall.
Phoenix cam agonizingly close when Drogba put over an excellent chance inside the 6 in stoppage time. But moments later, the Legend redeemed himself and saved the Firebirds with a magical curling free kick from 20 yards. It ended moments later.
Up Next: Phoenix returns home to face Colorado Springs on July 15 at 8 pm.