Today, we have assembled a panel of MRS writers (Alexi Dubois, John Richan and Sofiane Benzaza) to discuss what role Didier Drogba will play in the eastern conference semifinal.
Question: What can Didier Drogba bring to the two legs of the Eastern Conference Final?
John: With next Tuesday night, in all likelihood, being Didier Drogba’s last home game in a Montreal Impact jersey this is a good opportunity to look at what ‘The King’ still has left to offer. Over the course of the 2016 MLS season Drogba’s role has seen a shift from an automatic starter to becoming more of a role player coming off the bench. With this role shift in mind what can Drogba still bring to these two legs of the Eastern Conference Final?
First and foremost it should be no surprise the leadership that Drogba brings to the Impact even when he is not on the field. Here is a guy that has played at the highest level, knows what it takes to win and will keep the team grounded during the leadup to both legs. When he is not on the field he is still one of the most vocal leaders on the team. Although there are many talented players on both the Montreal Impact and Toronto FC, there is only one Didier Drogba.
On the field there is no doubt Drogba will play some role in either one or both of the two legs against Toronto FC. There is no doubt the end of the 2015 season is still fresh in the minds of both TFC players and supporters. In the two final games of the TFC season Drogba was able to score three goals in the two games. Even though Drogba is a year older and went through a lull in 2016 he is still a serious threat up front.
With all the accusations during this season of Drogba not wanting to be in Montreal the next two games are an opportunity for Didier to put all of this behind him. One thing is certain, there is no doubt that Drogba will have some impact on this two game series, whether it be behind the scenes or on the field.
Alexi: We are fairly sure of who the starting 11 will consist of for Tuesday’s match and that Didier Drogba will not be part of that starting lineup . However, I do expect Drogba to be in the 18 and make an appearance off the bench somewhere near the 65th minute. We have seen the best and the worst from Drogba since the Ivorian legend signed with IMFC during the 2015 summer transfer window. We have seen the extraordinary with world class free kicks, dominant aerial play and prolific goal scoring. However, we have also seen the worst from the Chelsea legend. We can go back to when Didier first arrived in Montreal and his puzzling decision not to speak to the media. Then, during the MLS off-season, RDS reported “a 90% chance” that Drogba would return to Chelsea to serve as a member of their coaching staff. Finally, we had the infamous incident this year when Drogba refused to be part of the 18 when he was not named to the starting 11.
However, that is all behind us now, Didier seems to be content with coming off the bench and, in all likeliness, that is what he will do on Tuesday. Even though Drogba is now 38 years old and playing on a thin green carpet over a layer of old cement in what is most likely to be his last home game for IMFC, Didier will still be a determining factor in the first leg of this eastern conference final. Drogba has proved during Chelsea’s 2015 EPL winning campaign that he can be an impact sub. In the away match versus the Red Bulls, we saw an enthusiastic Drogba who pressed NYRB high up the pitch. Contrary to what we have come to expect, Drogba had energy during his 20 minute appearance and kept up that level of effort. An energetic, eager and aggressive Didier Drogba will strike fear into the hearts of any back line in the MLS. In this evenly matched series, can a late goal by the legendary Ivorian be the deciding factor? Only time will tell.
This may be the last opportunity for Impact fans to see Drogba in action at home, let's hope he doesn't disappoint!
Sofiane: Can we have a Drogba effect on the pitch during a conference final? Definitely yes. Even though, I was disappointed by his impact on last year's semifinal matchup against the Columbus Crew. But that is also partly my fault. I was projecting Didier Drogba’s epic Champions League performance against Bayern Munich during the final to gift Chelsea with a first European trophy, at least the one that counts the most.
One can hope (me) that the Drogba magic can appear at the Olympic Stadium, a stadium that will host 55,000+ supporters ready to embrace a magical performance and chant the name of the King, the Legend.
His effectiveness on free kicks, whether as the reincarnation of David Beckham with a curling shot or of Olivier Bierhoff with a smashing header, is an important factor in the game.
Whether it's as a substitute or a starter, Drogba will be needed with all the experience and talent he has. He is far from being done and the Impact is too close to the ultimate goal to let any past internal rift go in the way of the Cup.