USL Rewind: Drogba dazzles in Phoenix Rising debut

The first USL appearance for Didier Drogba is in the books and a memorable occasion it was.

He scored a goal and set up one for Shaun Wright-Phillips in a 2-1 Phoenix Rising FC defeat of Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2. A sellout crowd of 7,062 witnessed the debut of Drogba at Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex as Phoenix reached the .500 mark at 5-5-0 (15 points) and eased into ninth place, out of the playoff tier only on a tiebreaker.

Drogba struck the crossbar with a header four minutes before breaking the game open in the 40th minute. He met a cross from Amadou Dia and hit a powerful header that keeper Sean Melvin got a piece of but couldn’t keep out of the net. WVFC2 equalized through Marco Bustos in the 68th minute; he tucked away a penalty kick awarded when Kody Wakasa felled Nazeem Bartman.

A cross from Wright-Phillips had provided the chance Drogba banged off the crossbar. He returned the favor in the 77th minute with a ball that Wright-Phillips steered through the legs of Vancouver defender Cole Seiler and inside the far post.

Phoenix’s victory is its third in the last five games and by winning it leapfrogged Whitecaps 2 in the standings. VWFC2 is 11th and a point out of playoffs with a record of 4-6-2 (14 points).

USL 2017:
Scoreboard | Standings

MONARCHS TIE RECORD. Sebastian Velasquez assisted on goals by Andrew Brody and Chandler Hoffman in a 2-0 defeat of Portland Timbers 2 by which Real Monarchs SLC tied the USL record for consecutive wins.

The Monarchs now share the league record of eight straight wins set by Orlando City in 2014 prior to its MLS entry. The victory also propelled SLC into first place in the Western Conference with a record of 11-1-0 (33 points).

Velasquez set up the first goal in the 41st minute by beating his man and cutting a ball across the edge of the goal area that Brody banged into the net. Hoffman scored his eighth goal of the season -- third-best in the league -- midway through the second half after approach work by Brody and Velasquez -- who is tied for third with four assists -- created the opportunity.

Villyan Bijev nearly got Portland back into the game a minute later but Real regained control after his near-miss and held Timbers 2 without a shot on goal. Timbers 2 is last in the Western Conference with a record of 1-11-1 and just four points.

Real gets a longer period to prepare for its possible record-breaking match. It hosts expansion club Reno 1868 next Monday. Reno swept its two home games last week, downing Rio Grande Valley FC, 3-2, and Sacramento Republic FC, 2-0.

LOUISVILLE EXORCISES RED BULL DEMONS. When Red Bulls II beat Louisville City on penalty kicks in the USL Eastern Conference finals last October en route to the league title, NYRB II also ran its record against Louisville to a perfect 5-0 since LCFC joined the league in 2014.

LCFC finally broke that hex last weekend, rolling out a 3-0 victory at MSU Soccer Park with Brian Ownby and Kyle Smith each notching a goal and an assist. Louisville improved its record to 6-1-4 (22 points), its unbeaten streak is four games, and it is in third place. NYRB is five points back in fourth at 5-6-2 (17 points).

Smith netted his first goal of the season in the 25th minute by cashing in a feed from Ownby after he’d sliced through the NYRB defense. Ownby scored himself 10 minutes into the second half on a ball from Paolo DelPiccolo, and in stoppage time Smith fed a ball for sub Richard Ballard to convert.

Red Bulls II goalkeeper Rafael Diaz was a late scratch because of a dislocated finger and regular starter Evan Louro made his ninth appearance of the season.
RHINOS BLUNT ROWDIES. After Rochester and Tampa Bay traded early goals at Al Lang Stadium, the Rhinos held onto the 1-1 tie to extend their unbeaten streak to seven games and leave the Rowdies winless in the last four.

Jochen Graf stunned Tampa Bay and defender Neill Collins by stealing the ball and slotting home a goal in the fifth minute. Joe Cole got the goal back for Tampa Bay by knocking home a low cross from Marcel Schaefer.

Cole nearly scored again with a low shot that was just wide and Graf’s best chance at a second goal was thwarted by keeper Matt Pickens, who got some help on the rebound when Michael Nanchoff blocked Brandon Beresford’s follow-up.

A third straight tie for the Rowdies (6-3-5, 23 points) leaves them in second place, four points behind leader Charleston. Rochester (4-1-5, 17 points) is fifth but has games in hand against all teams in the playoff tier.

USL Leading Scorers:
12 Dane Kelly (Reno)
10 Romario Williams (Charleston)
8 Chandler Hoffman (Real Monarchs)
7 Brandon Allen (NY Red Bulls II)
7 Seku Conneh (Bethlehem Steel)
6 Billy Forbes (San Antonio FC)
6 Sebastian Velasquez (Real Monarchs)
6 Djiby Fall (FC Cincinnati)
6 Georgi Hristov (Tampa Bay)
6 Corey Hertzog (Pittsburgh)

1 comment about "USL Rewind: Drogba dazzles in Phoenix Rising debut".
  1. don Lamb, June 12, 2017 at 10:51 p.m.

    I've been wondering where Velasquez has been since leaving NYCFC. Really hope he continues doing well and gets back to an MLS roster. Talent oozing from him.

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