MONTREAL – Didier Drogba will be available to play for the Montreal Impact against Orlando City SC on the turf field at Camping World Stadium on Sunday, but whether he or Matteo Mancosu is tabbed to start at striker remains to be seen.
Montreal coach Mauro Biello said after practice Friday that Drogba, who sat out four of the Impact’s first five matches to avoid playing on turf, will make the trip to Orlando and will be available for the crucial Eastern Conference battle (1 pm ET; TVA Sports in Canada, ESPN in the US).
"Well we know obviously turf field has been a question in the past," Biello said. "But these are important games and Didier is available for selection and we'll see which way we'll take in the next couple of days."
Drogba did not start the Impact's 3-1 win against the San Jose Earthquakes at Stade Saputo on Wednesday, four days after playing 90 minutes in a loss at the New York Red Bulls. He did come on in the 70th minute and assisted on Johan Venegas' stoppage time insurance goal in the victory against the Quakes.
"I'll wait until [Saturday] to make my final decisions but we saw some good things in that game and certain elements will remain the same and I'll make my decision about the others,” Biello said.
Sunday’s match at Orlando will be Montreal’s third contest in eight days. The Impact split the first two matches in the busy stretch, falling 1-0 at the New York last Saturday before beating San Jose to stay five points above the red line and in fifth in the East
Biello said he mapped out his plans for the congested week in advance with Drogba.
"Yeah, I discussed with Didier the situation and the choice in the upcoming games, and in the end I took a decision to have a different profile in that game and this was the discussion," Biello said.
Mancosu got the start in lieu of Drogba on Wednesday, setting up Ignacio Piatti for Montreal’s second goal. The veteran Italian has three goals and four assists in 13 regular season appearances since joining the Impact in on loan from Serie A club Bologna July.
Drogba has 10 goals and six assists in 22 MLS appearances, 18 of which have been starts, in 2016.
"I think it's a bit unfair all the pressure that Didier gets, whether he plays, whether he scores," Biello said. "And I know the expectations are high because it's Didier Drogba, but in the end Didier is part of a team. He brings something to this team and when he plays he's ready, when he comes off the bench he's ready. Matteo has come in, has done well off the bench and has done well as a starter and he gives me that option going forward with this team now to the end of the season and hopefully into the playoffs I'll have that option to use both of them in that manner."
Impact goalkeeper Evan Bush had an interesting perspective on how different the team in front of him looks depending on how Biello uses the contrasting styles of Drogba and Mancosu.
"Didier's got such a presence that it's not so much our team that looks different, it's how other people look at our team," Bush said. "Matteo is very active, he makes good runs, he's a lot like [former Impact striker] Marco Di Vaio was with playing off the back shoulder of the center back. Didier is going to come to the ball a little bit more and try to make the game so we changed a little bit with the way we played, but I think it gives other teams a little bit more a different perception of who we are when Didier is not on the field.
"We've had success with both of those guys at different moments this year and last year so whoever plays, whether it's Didier or Matteo, whatever Mauro decides, we're ready to roll with either of them."