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Phoenix Rising Play For Championship

Last Saturday, the Rising played in Irvine, California in the USL’s Western Conference Final. But they brought along a caravan of fans — over a thousand of them — who made their way from Phoenix to cheer on the team to a 2-1 victory.

The week before in Tempe, over 7,500 home fans packed in to their pop-up stadium in Tempe, which has consistently sold out this season.

Defender Devante Dubose says the Rising faithful have been integral to the team’s success.

“It means a lot. If it wasn’t for that support — I mean, you can see — it’s difficult to stay in games if you don’t have that 12th man." Dubose said. “I’ve always wondered whether 12th man is psychological, but it’s real.”

As the Rising have risen, so have the club and region’s chances at one day landing on the sport’s next level, Major League Soccer.

Win or lose in the title game, head coach Rick Schantz thinks they’ve earned consideration.

“My goal as a coach is to someday be walking out into a brand new MLS stadium with 25,000 season tickets here. That’s kind of what Arizona deserves.”

Thursday evening’s game in Louisville will also be the last for the Rising’s co-owner and striker Didier Drogba. The 40-year-old international superstar, who has scored goals in each of the club’s 3 playoff games, has announced he’s hanging up the cleats after the season.

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Phil Latzman is an award-winning digital journalist and broadcast professional with over 25 years of experience covering news and sports on a multitude of platforms.