Phoenix Rising FC returned to the Valley of the Sun having locked up a playoff spot during their recent road trip. Coming into the night they were sitting in 5th place and welcoming the Tulsa Roughnecks to town. Tulsa started the night in 7th place looking to inch closer to a 2017 USL playoff spot.
PRFC’s return to Scottsdale included the return of Didier Drogba to the lineup. The initial lineup card made it look like he may be playing in the midfield, possibly the #10 role and that turned out to be the case. Jason Johnson was the lone striker with Shaun Wright-Phillips and Amadou Dia on the wings.
The game got off to an insanely bad start. The Tulsa Roughnecks scored back-to-back goals in the 12th and 14th minute, first from Joaquin Rivas then by Juan Pablo Caffa.
Then things turned around. Just a bit. Phoenix would score back-to-back-to-back goals in the 16th, 19th and 23rd minutes. First Amadou Dia sent in a lovely cross and Drogba skied over the defender to get on the end of it. Then Dia again found himself in an advanced position to find Jason Johnson who would send a scorcher past the keeper. After that Dia, determined to be the best fullback-turned-winger in USL history, drew a penalty in the box. Drogba stepped to the spot and made it look easy, making it 3-2.
Tulsa couldn’t be held down long though. In the 30th minute they found an equalizer on a lovely double assist to Christian Thierjung. At this point, one has to wonder if the Phoenix Rising $1 beer night promotion extended to both teams’ defensive players.
From then out, things really calmed down and the half petered out tied at 3.
The second half got started and Tulsa picked up where they left off. They had an early chance charging into the box at full speed but couldn’t convert. From there PRFC really started to get on the front foot. In the 58th minute Drogba was taken down right on the edge of the box. If it’s on the line it’s a PK but the ref put it outside the box. The ensuing free kick would get up and down over the wall but the keeper came to Tulsa’s rescue to keep it 3-3.
In the 66th minute, Phoenix made all that pressure count. Gladson Awako made a run into the box and put a shot off the back of a sliding defender. The ball fell to Johnson who was sandwiched between four defenders but somehow broke through and slammed the ball between Cerda’s legs for the 7th goal of the night, fourth for the home team. The future Goal-of-the-Week effort came from an impossible angle at the endline.
Phoenix would maintain that lead through regulation only to be hit with five minutes of stoppage time. As the minutes ticked away, Tulsa didn’t even attack until the 95th minute. An entire extra minute ticked off, when Tulsa found the net, but the player who deflected in the long range shot was offside, and the game ended in a 4-3 Phoenix win.
With two games to go, Phoenix needs some help, but could still potentially host the first round of the USL Playoffs.