Didier Drogba’s days in Montreal are coming to an end.
Regardless of what happens in the second leg of the Eastern Conference Championship series at BMO Field next Wed., Nov. 30 (7 p ET, FS1 in US, TSN in Canada), Drogba’s time with the Impact will end at the close of the team's campaign.
The Ivorian striker revealed that he won’t return to Montreal in 2017 following his cameo appearance in Montreal’s 3-2 Leg One win against Toronto at Olympic Stadium on Tuesday night. That made the match his last ever in Montreal, as the Impact would play MLS Cup on the road should they advance past Toronto next week.
Drogba arrived in Montreal last summer and got his Impact career off to an explosive start, firing home 11 goals in 11 regular season contests in 2015. That feat propelled Montreal from below the red line upon his arrival, all the way to the East’s third seed in the playoffs. Though he was relegated to a reserve role down the stretch, the former Chelsea man still had a solid 2016, recording 10 goals and six assists in just 22 regular season contests for the Impact.
He still has another chance to make another lasting memory or two on Wednesday and – potentially – in MLS Cup, but he’s already had plenty of standout moments in MLS. Here’s a list of five of my favorites:
Drogba is an international hero, a contributor to the end of the Ivory Coast’s civil war and an absolute legend in the sport. He didn’t become a social media superstar, however, until he decided to bizarrely latch on to Columbus goalkeeper Steve Clark’s leg in Montreal’s 2015 Eastern Conference semifinal series against Crew SC.
Drogba’s leglock didn’t just inspire an incredible call from JP Dellacamera – “What’s he doing, Brad?” gets me every time – it also spawned a meme movement.
4) No love for Philadelphia
Drogba’s 2016 wasn’t as happy as he would’ve hoped, but he still had his high points this year. His best night probably came on July 23, when he scored a hat trick to power the Impact to a dominant 5-1 home win against the Philadelphia Union. Drogba scored a pair of first-half goals to put Montreal up 2-0, then smartly put away a Nacho Piatti pass with his first touch to complete his hat trick in the 52nd minute.
3) Dancing Didier
He scored plenty of goals in his first season with Montreal, but I’m not sure Drogba was ever having more fun in 2015 than when he was orchestrating some team-wide dance efforts. He put together a nice celebration dance video following the Impact’s playoff win against Toronto FC. He also showed some comedic chops when he video-bombed an RDS news report. But his best work came when he made an entire Impact academy team dance battle in the first team’s locker room.
Watch this without smiling. I dare you:
2) Owning Ontario
Drogba put a serious damper on Toronto FC’s otherwise historic stretch run in 2015, spoiling the Impact’s longtime rivals’ final regular season game and first-ever playoff match. Drogba got things going on Decision Day, scoring two fantastic second-half goals minutes apart to give Montreal a comeback 2-1 win that clinched a home playoff match against, you guessed it, TFC.
He kept things rolling in the Knockout Round, scoring the final goal in the Impact’s 3-0 rout of TFC at Stade Saputo to eliminate Montreal’s longtime rivals and push his club to the East semis. We’ll see if he can resume his old dominance against TFC next Wednesday night.
1) Hat trick vs. Chicago for first goals
It didn’t take long for Drogba’s Montreal legend to take flight. Playing in just his second game and making his first start for his new team, the Ivorian scored his first MLS goals in outstanding fashion last summer. That's when he bagged a hat trick in a dramatic 4-3 win against the Chicago Fire that jump-started the Impact’s entire season.
Montreal entered the match in major disarray. The Impact were out of the playoff picture, on a three-game losing streak and had recently replaced head coach Frank Klopas with Mauro Biello. They needed a spark; Drogba provided it, and then some.
The Ivorian recorded three goals in Montreal’s huge win over Chicago, scoring the opener in the 27th minute, pulling the Impact even at 3-3 in the 61st, and completing his hat trick to give the Impact all three points in the 64th.
The dramatic win completely revived Montreal’s season, launching a six-game unbeaten streak and a 7-2-2 run to close the regular season.