There is, as of this afternoon, no more (public) beef between Didier Drogba and the Montreal Impact. This comes just about 48 hours after some VERY public beef in which the Cote d'Ivoire legend chose to skip his club's crucial game against their biggest rivals, and in so doing launched "Strife in Montreal!" onto the front page of this website and many, many others on both sides of the 49th parallel.
There is a bird's-eye view piece to be written here -- a bigger picture look at what the whole situation means for the club, and a young manager who made a tough call, and what it all means for the league itself. Our man Will Parchman's got that coming in a few minutes.
But on a granular, ground-floor level, here's what I'm seeing:
The Montreal Impact now have the option of bringing Didier Drogba off the bench for the final 30 or 35 minutes of every game they play from here on out.
Actually, let me rephrase:
The Montreal Impact now have the option of bringing an angry, "out-to-show-the-world-he's-still-Didier-Drogba" Didier Drogba off the bench for the final 30 or 35 minutes of every game they play from here on out.
A shiver of fear should've coursed through every MLS defender upon reading that.
Montreal have struggled this season with Drogba in the starting lineup (they're just 3-7-8 when he's in the XI, and 8-3-4 when he isn't) largely because he can't defend from the front for complete games anymore, and they don't have the ground-eating, young, fleet-footed central midfielders to close down the gaps his lack of defense leaves. Over the course of a complete game -- or even 60 minutes -- that wears you down. If your opponent is able to repeatedly skip through the front line and set up shop in the midfield, they'll control the pace of the game and where on the field it's played, and that's been the story for the Impact.
But for a 30-minute stretch in the second half, going against defenders that Matteo Mancosu (he of the relentless off-the-ball movement) has run ragged for the better part of an hour?
Listen to the commentary on this clip, starting at the 34-second mark:
That's from Drogba's last performance, a 20-minute cameo against the Quakes in a 3-1 Impact win last month. San Jose had pulled a goal back in the 62nd minute to make it 2-1, and the game's momentum belonged to them. Eight minutes later, however, Drogba came onto the field and completely refocused the Impact attack -- which both blunted San Jose's momentum and led to the above goal, sealing the result.
It's the ideal way to use a guy with his still undeniably potent (10g/6a in 1650 minutes) attacking skillset. This is the type of off-the-bench weapon no MLS team has ever, EVER had.
And let's all remember this: Drogba is arguably the best big-game player of the 21st century. "Cometh the moment, cometh the man" as Adrian Heath said on this weekend's live show, and I suspect Drogba recognizes this is his last moment as a professional soccer player. He didn't want to go out as a guy who walked away from his team.
He won't want to go out as a super-sub, either. But if that's what he has to do -- if that's the role he has to accept -- I'll be shocked if he doesn't use it as motivation to go out next weekend, and then each and every game of the Impact's playoff run to stomp opposing defenders into absolute nothingness.
He can't do it for 90 minutes anymore, but he is still, in fact, Didier Drogba. And so 20 or 30 minutes should be just about enough.