Didier Drogba set one goal for his teammates (and, in a way, employees, since he co-owns the team) at the start of the USL playoffs: Win the Cup! He even threatened to call off his retirement if they were unable to do so, possibly only half-jokingly.
After three single-elimination games, three wins, and three goals from Drogba, Phoenix Rising FC are now just one win away from fulfilling Drogba’s goal.
This coming Thursday (November 8), Western Conference Champions Phoenix will travel to Louisville, KY to take on Eastern Conference Champions Louisville City FC in the 2018 USL Cup final.
Earlier tonight (Saturday), Phoenix made the much shorter trip across the Colorado River and the Salton Sea to beat Irvine, CA-based Orange County SC at home, 2-1. The visitors opened the scoring inside of five minutes and doubled their lead through the iconic Drogba deep into the second-half. The home side got one back soon after, but it would not be enough to derail Phoenix’s quest.
And so, at 40 years old but as determined as he ever was, the Big Man gets one more Big Occassion. It’s perfect, really.
“I’m really proud of what I’m doing now, because it’s a story of football, of playing, of competition. For me, it’s a good way to end my career, to be able to give something back to these young and ambitious players who want to become successful in their careers. I started the same way playing in the second division and ended up playing at some of the best clubs in the world.”
“This is what I love to do. If it’s not about passion, I don’t know what would drive me to play at age 40.”
-Didier Drogba; source: SI
After Thursday’s final, Drogba will retire and officially make all his other ownership, business, ambassadorial, and charitable duties his primary job. His career may be over, but in a way, he’s just getting started.