Drogba or not, DC United ready for whatever Montreal Impact throw at them

WASHINGTON — D.C. United captain Bobby Boswell says his side is preparing both for life with and without Montreal Impact forward Didier Drogba in Thursday’s Knockout Round clash in the Audi 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs.

Meanwhile, United head coach Ben Olsen believes the two options aren’t that different, at least when it comes to his team's preparation.

Drogba hasn’t played for the Impact since September, amidst a feud with Montreal manager Mauro Biello over playing time. After removing himself from the substitute's bench before a 2-2 draw against Toronto FC on Oct. 16, the superstar cited back issues for keeping him out of training ahead of Sunday’s regular season finale defeat to New England.

But if the Ivory Coast international and former Chelsea striker does make what increasingly seems to be an unlikely return to the pitch Thursday, Boswell insists his side will be ready.

“We’ve looked at lineups with him in it, we’ve looked at lineups with him not in it,” Boswell said Tuesday. “I don’t know what their team belief is with or without him, but people make a lot of points about the results with or without him. I think for me, he’s still a world-class player. He can change a game on his own. So you have to prepare for that.”

Boswell’s hunch is that Drogba remains out. Olsen insists he isn’t losing sleep over it.

“Who knows? You know what I mean?” Olsen said. “We know who he is. We know where he’s going to play, what position, and the areas on the field he’s going to be at. He’s a different player than [forward Matteo] Mancosu, but I don’t think much is going to change if they swap one for the other. So the way we go about the game isn’t going to change.”

Despite scoring 10 goals in 22 appearances this season, Drogba had been used in a reserve role twice in four matches in September before being kept off Orlando City SC’s turf entirely on Oct. 2. That absence was expected, but Drogba reacted furiously when he was again out of the Starting XI two weeks later — although it appeared like the situation had been resolved.

D.C. forward Patrick Mullins said he could understand the emotions behind Drogba’s actions.

“As a forward, you want to be on the field, you want to be scoring goals and opportunities if you can,” Mullins said. “So there’s always a little frustration if you’re not on the field. And, you know, each individual has to deal with it in their own way.”