All good things must end, and so it went with the unbeaten run of Phoenix Rising FC since the arrival of head coach Patrice Carteron and forward/owner Didier Drogba. Tulsa Roughnecks FC handed the Firebirds their first loss in seven matches, in front of a season-record 5,647 fans at ONEOK Field in Tulsa.
Tulsa owned the early going, with Phoenix goalkeeper Josh Cohen getting far too many touches. In the 6th minute, Rising right back Kody Wakasa found himself ball-watching in the middle of the box, as Joaquin Rivas was all alone to place his shot in the back of the net. The assistant referee’s flag was up, however, and Phoenix survived, for a moment.
Juan Pablo Caffa’s corner in the 15th found goal off the head of Ian Svantesson, who won his positioning battle with Phoenix big man Peter Ramage. The goal gave Tulsa a 1-0 lead, and brought Svantesson’s tally to eight on the year.
Rising FC’s best chance of the half came in the 20th, when Drogba lined up a 20-yard free kick that went over the wall, but was just pushed aside by Tulsa goalkeeper Fabián Cerda.
In the 23rd minute, another Tulsa player, Collin Fernandez, found himself with acres of space at the top of the box. Fortunately for the Firebirds, his left-footed blast was directly at Cohen.
Tulsa doubled their lead just before halftime. In the 44th, a confusing dustup in the box allowed Jacori Hayes to record an easy goal, putting the icing on the worst half of soccer in the Drogba era.
At halftime, Carteron inserted Shaun Wright-Phillips and Jason Johnson, and immediately there was a difference. In the opening minutes of the second half, Rising FC made several runs at Cerda’s penalty area, culminating with a Drogba free kick that went harmlessly off the wall.
In the 54th, Rising got stretched, when Paris Gee found himself behind the defense on the end of a long pass, but his 1-v-1 effort with Cohen went well over the goal. Phoenix would counter with an attack of their own, however, with Eric Avila putting a shot just over the Tulsa net.
The Roughnecks nearly put a dagger in Phoenix in the 58th, when Svantesson shook the mark of Ramage. His powerful shot was quick, but went off the far post.
Despite sustained pressure from Johnson and company, the air would soon go out of Rising FC, punctuated by an injury scare to Drogba. Tulsa secured the rout in the 85th when Christian Thierjung beat Josh Cohen for the 3-0 lead.
Phoenix returns home next Saturday, July 28, to meet San Antonio FC. Tulsa Will travel to Sandy, Utah on July 31 to take on conference leaders Real Monarchs SLC.