His influence, however, was still felt.
Drogba took in the match from the mezzanine at RFK, later moving pitchside to dole out congratulations and celebrate with his teammates. After the match, he delivered an impromptu pep talk in a raucous Impact locker room.
It’s the latest installment in a bizarre series of events which had left some wondering whether Drogba will ever play another game in an Impact uniform. On Sunday, things seemed to grow less murky as Impact head coach Mauro Biello and a host of Montreal players shared their feelings on Drogba’s absence and what’s to come.
“Didier wasn't [playing] tonight but he was with us, with the group,” said Impact defender Hassoun Camara. “He traveled with us and he is very focused on what we're going to do.”
“I spoke to [Didier] the other day and we talked about this game,” added Biello. “Because he didn’t train much this week it would’ve been difficult – but that the game for Sunday could be more realistic for him.
“If he’s healthy, he will be available for me.”
Montreal could certainly use Drogba. Though Matteo Mancosu has been a revelation up top in his absence, the mere presence of the Ivory Coast legend on the bench will certainly give the New York Red Bulls and whomever else the Impact end up facing reason for pause.
Against D.C., Drogba’s absence wasn’t much of a distraction. Statistically, Montreal have been better without him, a trend which continued on Sunday.
“Mauro has to take decisions for the best of the team … this team believes in itself,” said Impact captain Patrice Bernier. “This team never looked at the situation in terms of changing the dynamics. We believed in ourselves, Didier believes in the group and he's been very fantastic as a leader in the locker room, even though that side had been not as easy. And it showed today, that our focus – we were looking like a racehorse with [blinders] on, [looking] forward.”
“We're good right now,” added Impact midfielder Dominic Oduro. “Listen, Drogba is still part of the team. As far as I know he is dealing with a little bit of injury, obviously, and people have their own stories. If you're not in the locker room obviously you're going to have your own story. But he's still part of the team and he's ready to play. I'm pretty sure he's going to be back in the 18[-man] lineup and play.”