MONTREAL – Didier Drogba will be available for Montreal Impact coach Mauro Biello's 18-man roster for the decisive leg of their Eastern Conference Semifinals series vs. the New York Red Bulls on Sunday.
On Saturday, Biello confirmed that Drogba has sufficiently recovered from back issues that sidelined him for Montreal's first two Audi 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs games to dress for the Impact at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey (4 pm ET, ESPN/ESPN Deportes, RDS, TSN5).
The Chelsea and Cote d'Ivoire legend offers a potent scoring threat for Biello off the bench as Montreal try to advance to the Eastern Conference Championship for the first time since joining MLS in 2012.
"To have Didier on offense, sure, that can help late in the game with all the experience he has," Biello said.
He refused to be in the lineup for the Impact's 2-2 tie against Toronto FC on Oct. 16 when he was left out of Biello's starting 11, but subsequently patched things up with Biello and Impact owner Joey Saputo, who said Drogba would accept whatever role was asked of him.
Drogba spoke about the incident for the first time earlier this week.
"I think it's behind us," he said. "Let's focus on what's next, you know, the game. From now, I think you're not going to hear some negativity about what happened, so please, let's try to be positive. If you want to carry on and kill me, kill me. But it's fine. Please don't touch the team, don't touch the club because we have an objective and we're trying to do better than last year."
Impact striker Matteo Mancosu took over Drogba's starting job in the second half of the season, and scored his third goal in two playoff games to lead Montreal to a 1-0 win against New York in the opening leg at Stade Saputo on Sunday.
"His profile is what we expected when we scouted him," Biello said. "We knew the type of player he was when he came in, the ability to get in behind, his work ethic, his finishing, and obviously with the performances came more and more time on his end. But for us, he's adapted very quickly.
“Sometimes players that come from Europe take a longer time to adapt to everything, to the culture, to the team, to the city. But he's been able to fit in quickly and he's been able to bring out those qualities that we saw in him when we were scouting."
Mancosu left practice early because of a leg issue on Wednesday. But the Italian pronounced himself fit and ready to team up with Impact leading scorer Ignacio Piatti to drive Montreal's attack along with winger Dominic Oduro.
"Nacho [Piatti] and I work well together, and the important thing is to score goals," Mancosu said after practice Friday. "He and I and Dominic are looking to score goals, and we hope that's going to continue."