The moment had been building since April. 

Didier Drogba, a soccer legend who starred in the World Cup with Ivory Coast and with Chelsea in the English Premier League, trotted out onto the field to join his new Phoenix Rising FC teammates.

The anticipation and buzz that had been growing all evening in the hot sun finally reached a climax, and the packed stands at the Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex erupted. 

Sure, the fans were excited about the 39-year-old international star, but Drogba is more than just a new player. He is a symbol for this franchise – a symbol of hope, excitement and significance in the soccer world. That sentiment was echoed by fans prior to the start of the match against Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2. 

“The fact that a legend and a new manager are making their debut makes today special,” fan Vincent Castelamare said. “It is extremely exciting that the club has owners that have the passion for the sport as well as the business acumen to bring success and, hopefully, the MLS. The in-stadium experience has been first class.”

In the 40th minute, Drogba connected on a header into the right side of the net for his first career goal with Phoenix for a 1-0 lead. The crowd was electric.

Fans lined up more than two hours ahead of the scheduled start time, eager to fill the stadium. 

“I’m excited because other people are excited,” fan Nick Tapia said. 

Excitement is contagious, and it’s clear that it is spreading.

The signing of Drogba and the experience at games this season has left a positive impression on fans, who have seemingly bought in to the idea of soccer in Phoenix.

“I’m extremely excited about the future of soccer in Arizona with this new ownership group,” fan Michael Vanderplas said. “It’s a night-and-day difference between them and what we grew use to.”

The fan base is craving stability within ownership, and the belief is that they finally have that with Berke Bakay and the rest of the ownership group. 

“After three ownership groups, three names, and four ‘home’ stadiums in the past four years, I’m hoping we’ve finally set a stake in the ground for professional soccer in Arizona,” fan Brian Johnson said. “This will be a milestone evening.”

Phoenix is one of 12 cities that submit a bid to join the MLS, and the addition of Drogba and reputation of the owners will make it hard for the league to say no.

“I want Phoenix to have an MLS team to enjoy and be proud of,” longtime fan Ken Knighton said. “Phoenix is the largest city in the U.S. without MLS. I have been following this franchise from the beginning in 2014 to watch the growth and progress and to be part of what will possibly be the fifth major-league team in Phoenix. Once this ownership group took control last August they have made amazing progress in reaching these goals.”

Before the game, Drogba said he doesn’t want fans to look at him like just another player on the team. He doesn’t have to worry about that because him simply being in Phoenix sends a stronger message to fans about the future of the sport in this city than any goal he will ever score here.

“I think the atmosphere will be electric,” fan Douglas Schuttenberg said. “I’m excited for Drogba’s debut. Every game this season has been enjoyable for me, win or lose. This ownership group has done everything one could expect to take the game to a new level in this town, and it’s working. Big names, new stadium and quality players. They are creating many new fans in my opinion.”

June 9, 2017

The long-awaited playing debut of Didier Drogba is here, as the Phoenix Rising’s player/owner is set to take the field on Saturday.

Rising FC (4-5-0) hosts Whitecaps FC 2 (4-5-2) at the Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex at 7:30 p.m.

Saturday’s game will also mark the debut of Patrice Carteron, who was named head coach on May 22.

The game will be televised live on Cox 7 and the team’s youtube channel.

Rising FC falls to OKC FC

June 6

Phoenix Rising FC ended its three-match road trip with a 3-2 loss to Oklahoma City Energy FC. Defender J.J. Greer and midfielder Eder Arreola scored their first goals of the season in the loss.

The club will return home this Saturday, June 10, to take on Whitecaps FC 2. That match kicks off at 7:30 p.m. It will also be the debut for international soccer superstar Didier Drogba.

Rising’s games are carried live on Cox cable channel 7 as well as the team’s youtube channel,

Phoenix Rising FC schedule 2017

Tuesday, June 6

at OKC Energy FC

5:30 p.m.

Saturday, June 10

Whitecaps FC2

7:30 p.m.

Sunday, June 18

at Swope Park Rangers

2 p.m.

Saturday, June 24

Real Monarchs SLC

7:30 p.m.

Friday, June 30

at Reno 1868 FC

7:30 p.m.

Saturday, July 8

at Orange County Soccer Club

7:30 p.m.

Saturday, July 15

Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC

7:30 p.m.

Saturday, July 22

at Tulsa Roughnecks FC

5:30 p.m.

Saturday, July 29

San Antonino FC

7:30 p.m.

Saturday, August 5

at LA Galaxy II

7:30 p.m.

Saturday, August 12

at Rio Grande Valley

5:30 p.m.

Friday, August 18

at Orange County Soccer Club

7:30 p.m.

Saturday, August 26

Sacramento Rebublic FC

7:30 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 2

Seattle Sounders FC 2

7:30 p.m.

Wednesday, Sept. 6

Orange County Soccer Club

7:30 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 9

at Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC

5 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 16

Real Monarchs SLC

7:30 p.m.

Wednesday, Sept. 20

at Seattle Sounders FC 2

7:30 p.m.

Sunday, Sept. 24

at Whitecaps FC 2

3 p.m.

Wednesday, Sept. 27

at Portland Timbers 2

7:30 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 30

at Sacramento Rebubli FC

7:30 p.m.

Wednesday, Oct. 4

Tulsa Roughnecks FC

7:30 p.m.

Saturday, Oct. 7

Rio Grande Valley FC

7:30 p.m.

Saturday, Oct. 14

Portland Timbers 2

7:30 p.m.


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Phoenix Rising FC 2017 results

Saturday, March 25

Toronto FC II 1, Rising 0

Saturday, April 1

Real Monarchs 2, Rising 0

Saturday, April 8

Rising 2, LA Galaxy II 1

Sunday, April 23

Rising 4, Swope Park Rangers 3

Saturday, May 6

Reno 1868 FC 4, Rising 0

Saturday, May 13

Rising 2, OKC Energy FC 1

Saturday, May 20

San Antonio FC 1, Rising 0

Saturday, May 27

Rising 2, LA Galaxy II 1