Wow, that was a big turnaround, eh? In about five days, news on Didier Drogba went from how potentially bad his toe injury was, to whether or not the Ivorian had delivered the best performance by an Impact player in the history of the club.
Personally, I‘ve never seen a more dominating performance by an Impact player in my life, and it goes far beyond the goals he scored. Here’s how I saw it:
Drogba in the air, it’s almost not fair
"Previously I’ve tried to hit it to the side… Now I just hit it anywhere in Drogba’s vicinity and he goes and gets it."
A minute and half into the game Drogba had already won three headers, and it was around then that I decided to stop counting. I don’t think I’ve seen anything like it. Over and over again, the Ivorian climbed the ladder and met the ball first. It was done effortlessly and tirelessly, and it was beautiful to watch. The Impact has never had a striker like this, a player that so dominates opponents in the air.
What’s more, he won headers everywhere, even in his own box. In fact he lead the entire team in clearances, most of them by way of a header.
Drogba on the ball, you better make him fall
When he wasn’t winning headers, the Ivorian was winning fouls (4 to be precise), or slipping by players as if they weren’t there. Remember, this guy is supposedly over the hill and playing with an injured toe. On Saturday night, Drogba played like a man possessed, a man who had one clear idea in mind: just win.
His first touch was flawless from start to finish, and he played with an air of superiority that eventually became infectious. If anything, it gave the rest of the team the sort of confidence they needed to overcome a two-goal deficit.
3 goals, 3 ways
So how would you like your goal, sir? Scored with a deft touch? Slammed in the top corner? Or maybe with a one-timed shot mixed with a header? Drogba gave us a little bit of everything, goal-wise against the Fire, and every one was a treat.
Probably the most enjoyable one for me was the first, because it was the type of goal IMFC rarely scores. A simple cross into the box that the striker is able to corral, spins, and toe pokes smartly into the corner. It was done seemingly all in one motion, and as simple as it appeared, it was anything but. The key to the goal is Drogba’s body positioning on Reo-Coker’s pass, and his ability to muscle off the Fire defender to win the ball. From there the finish is fairly academic (well for Drogba anyway). I’ll get to the rest of the team’s finishing (or lack thereof) in a second.
Léfevre has earned his spot at CB
For me, Wandrille Léfevre earned a spot next to Laurent Ciman months ago, but was treated the most harshly by Frank Klopas, more so than any other player on the squad in my opinion (including Patrice Bernier). Due to a single, glaring mistake he made in a game against NYCFC in June (a game he also scored in), the Frenchman has barely played since then, passed over for a less experienced and in my opinion, wild player in Victor Cabrera.
The 26-year-old was a menace in the Chicago Fire box on Saturday, scoring once on a header and missing by inches on another. The center back was mostly solid in defensive coverage as well, and was hardly the only one to blame on the Fire’s second goal.
Going forward, I feel that Léfevre needs to start the majority of the games that remain. He’s a better defender than Cabrera, and his presence in the opponent’s box is undeniable. Between Ciman, Drogba and Léfevre, I expect a goal or at least one bonafide chance per game via a set piece from now till the end of the season.
No Drogba, no problem?
Yeah, not so much. Without Drogba on Saturday night, IMFC would probably have been crushed, and Mauro Biello can thank his lucky stars that his managerial debut began with 90 minutes of Drogba.
There’s simply no finish in this squad. They manage to get more than their fair share of chances per game, but outside of the odd set piece goal, IMFC really struggle to consolidate their opportunities. At the heart of it all are players like Romero and Oduro, who seem to need the most ideal of circumstances (wide open net, a few seconds to get it to their good foot, etc.,) to put it in the back of the net.
There’s quality here, I’m not doubting that, but outside of Drogba, there isn’t a player in the squad who has much composure in and around the box.
Biello’s first order of business: Crosses
And what do you do with a team that has trouble scoring goals? Make your offense as simple as possible, I suppose. At some point after IMFC’s win over Chicago, Nigel Reo-Coker mentioned that the team were playing like an old-style English squad, which basically just means cross after cross into the box,with the hope that eventually one will connect for a goal. On Saturday we saw three connect for goals, and going forward I expect more of the same recipe.
For a team that struggles so mightily to create goals through neat, one-two passing, and individual efforts around the box, crosses in repetition seems to be the way to go. It takes more pressure off of the receiver of the ball, as the action is more instinctual (getting a head or boot on the ball) than skillful. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of skill that goes into scoring off of a cross in the box, but probably less than beating a defender with a dribble 1 v 1, before slipping it past the keeper.