Phoenix heads to USL Cup for the first time

A Phoenix team has been in the current USL in one form or another since 2013, but until Didier Drogba came to town, it never made the playoffs.

In what will be his second and final season with the Rising, the 40-year-old Drogba, who is retiring, led to the USL Cup with a 2-1 win at No. 1-seed Orange County SC in the Western Conference final, its third straight wins in the 2018 playoffs after exiting in the conference quarterfinals in 2017.

The victory sets up a trip to Eastern Conference champion Louisville City, the defending champion, for the USL Cup on Thursday night.

Top scorer Chris Cortez stunned the crowd at Champions Soccer Stadium with the first goal after only 66 seconds, and Drogba added to the lead when he scored on a rebound of his first shot blocked by OCSC defender Alex Crognale in the 73rd minute.

Japanese midfielder Koji Hashimoto pulled a goal back with a shot from close range in the 82nd minute, but keeper Matt Woszczynski, who has been in Phoenix since 2015 when the USL team was known as Arizona United, made two late saves on Aodhan Quinn and Hashimoto to preserve the victory.

Nov. 3 in Irvine, Calif.
Orange County SC  1 Phoenix 2. Goals: Hashimoto 82; Cortez 2, Drogba 73.
Orange County SC -- Rawls, Alston, Amico, Crognale, Hooiveld, Chaplow (Hashimoto 67), Jones (Duke 79), Quinn, Enevoldsen, Bjurman (Powder 58), Seaton,
Phoenix -- Woszczynski, Abdul-Salaam, Dia, Farrell, Blackmon, Fernandez, Asante (Brewer 90), Lambert, Drogba,  Johnson (Forbes 83), Cortez (Awako 62).
Att.: 5,189.
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