With the monsoon rains falling and the lightning threatening in the distance, Phoenix Rising FC pulled a Rocky Mountain-sized monkey off its back, recording a 2-1 win over Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC. The win was the first ever for Phoenix against its Colorado rival. Halftime substitute Jason Johnson was the hero for the Firebirds, recording two come-from-behind goals in just 18 minutes.
Didier Drogba and Blair Gavin got the action started in the second and third minute respectively, sending ambitious long-range efforts wide. Then Omar Bravo got into the act, with two exciting dribbles into the box, both corralled by Switchbacks ‘keeper Moise Pouaty.
It was Colorado Springs that would draw first blood, however, when in the 12th, Kevaughn Frater beat Phoenix’s Josh Cohen to the lower left corner of the net.
In the 29th, Blair Gavin nearly found the head of Drogba when he looped a skillful cross into the center of the area, but the ball went directly to Pouaty.
Head coach Patrice Carteron addressed the first-half performance after the match, saying, “The first ten minutes we are perfect, after this we were very bad the rest of the first half so I really asked the players and I told to all the players at halftime that I was not happy.”
Johnson came on for Gavin at the half and made a difference in spectacular fashion.
His first goal came in the 66th, when he pounced on a ball being bobbled by Pouaty and poked it home. He sealed the deal with an 84th-minute header off a lovely corner kick from Drogba.
Johnson had a difficult match at Reno on June 3o, so the performance was particularly gratifying. “Trainings aren’t that easy,” he said, “so you’ve got to come with your A-game every day so that helps during the week. I just keep believing in myself, believing in my teammates and vice versa and I’m happy with the performance tonight.”
Carteron personally helped prepare Johnson. He said, “Yesterday evening I told (Johnson) please don’t be sad because with the quality you have I’m sure that you will have your chance, and the halftime immediately I saw that he will be the key for success tonight.”
The Firebirds are undefeated in the six matches since Drogba and Carteron joined the organization.
“Patrice wants us to win every game,” Drogba said of his manager after the match. “He wants us to win every game and that’s the mentality we need to have! You know you cannot win every time but at least you have to give everything and that’s what we’ve been doing the last few weeks.”
Phoenix Rising FC (6-5-4) travels to Tulsa, Oklahoma next Saturday, July 22 to take on Roughnecks FC, while Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC (6-7-6) face OKC Energy FC.