Welcome to the Wednesday Q&A series, where we focus on one particular topic – today's being Didier Drogba and the Montreal Impact – and ask you to react, share, and discuss in the comments section. However, feel free to ask about anything game-related (MLS, USL, NASL, USMNT, CanMNT, etc.) over the next several hours.
Didier Drogba took the usual story, ripped it up and set it on fire. He cares not for the struggles of mere mortals.
The usual story is that summer signings -- attacking ones, anyway -- usually fall pretty flat in MLS. Tim Cahill was lousy and was benched for the New York Red Bulls when he came on board in 2012, and Clint Dempsey couldn't find the net with a map when he came to Seattle a year later. Thierry Henry wasn't particularly good in 2010, and neither was Robbie Keane when he arrived in 2011 (though he found his feet in time for that year's playoff run).
Drogba's arrival was, um, different:
A goal per game and the best hold-up play in league history is what he provided as the Impact changed from a team that sort of scuffled along near the playoff picture to one that charged all the way up to third place. If the season had lasted two more weeks, they probably would have climbed into second.
It was magical, but I'm not sure it's sustainable. Drogba turns 38 in a couple of weeks, and there's a different kind of strain that comes with a full season vs. a three-month sprint to the finish. He'll start his year playing in freezing temperatures; he'll have to last through at least a few swampy afternoons in the likes of Houston, Orlando and Washington, D.C.; and he'll face crucial games on turf at various stops throughout.
It adds up. At some point, he will likely need to take a week or two off, and Mauro Biello would do well to take a page from Gregg Popovich -- the NBA mastermind who's found a way to keep Tim Duncan fresh for two decades by limiting his minutes.
The question then becomes "Does Montreal have a Plan B?" They were a sort of rudderless team last year without Drogba's hold-up play, which was arguably more important to their late-season success than his actual scoring. He acted as a fulcrum, secure with the ball and possessed of an attacking gravity that opened up time and space for the rest of the team. It was beautiful to watch (and must have been intimidating as hell to gameplan against).
So far, the Plan B for goal-scoring seems to run through newly acquired Harry Shipp. He's been playing as an attacking midfielder and has produced two assists in two games, both to winger Dom Oduro. That partnership seems like a good start.
But the finish has to come from Biello coaxing his team into a more measured and rhythmic sort of game. Turning last year's deep-lying, counterattacking 4-3-3 into one that can use possession -- and not necessarily possession via Drogba's brilliance -- to create chances is the step the Impact need to take in order to rise from "Team nobody wants to play against" to "favorites."
This is the eighth in a daily series counting down to to the MLS regular season first kick on March 6. I'm using Paul Carr's tweets (with his blessing) to examine some of the bigger storylines to follow in the upcoming season.
- 18 days out Examining David Villa's role for NYCFC
- 17 days out Can Larin replicate his rookie year heroics?
- 16 days out A new spot and new concerns for Giovinco
- 15 days out New start begins at the back for Chicago
- 14 days out Sporting can create, but who'll finish?
- 13 days out Young-at-the-back Union flipping the script
- 12 days out JaviMo squares off against Father Time