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The SBI View: Potential Drogba departure serves as big blow to Impact

Photo by Eric Bolte/USA Today Sports

Photo by Eric Bolte/USA Today Sports

The Montreal Impact appeared to be well on their way. After storming past Toronto FC before falling just a goal short of the Eastern Conference finals, the Impact looked to be in the process of becoming very real, and very dangerous, contenders for the 2016 MLS Cup crown.

However, that process took a major blow on Tuesday with reports of the impending departure of the Impact’s most important piece.

It was revealed on Tuesday that the Impact appear to be facing a future without Didier Drogba, the team’s key midseason signing and talismanic striker. Drogba’s stay, and MLS dominance, now appears to be coming to an end, as a potential coaching role with Chelsea looms large.

Behind Drogba, the Impact saw a resurgence, boasting a 7-1-1 record with the hulking striker in the starting XI. While his 11 goals in as many regular season games proved to be a key cog in the Impact’s push, Drogba’s biggest impact may just have been his mere presence, which revitalized and reenergized a club in need of a veteran, big-name star.

With that star apparently set to move on in the very near future, recently named full-time head coach Mauro Biello faces a daunting task in his first full season as a head coach.

Since acquiring the 37-year-old striker, the Impact have very much been built to be a team that highlights Drogba’s abilities. Technically superior and as physically gifted as anyone in the game, Drogba’s skill set was perfectly suited to the style of play in MLS. With a talented playmaker in Ignacio Piatti feeding him and a stout defense led by Laurent Ciman, the Impact had constructed a fine-tuned spine en route to a postseason berth.

In Drogba, the Impact saw what appeared to be a multi-year solution, both on and off the field. As a player, Drogba more than demonstrated his ability to carry a team and rapidly emerged as a favorite for the 2016 Golden Boot. In the community, Drogba finally gave the club a highly-desired French-speaking centerpiece, one that could fill Stade Saputo repeatedly while guiding the club towards the top of the Eastern Conference.

The Impact knew just that when they sent both general and Targeted Allocation Money to the Chicago Fire in exchange for Drogba’s services: a player that would change the complexion of their entire roster. Yet, even with the new MLS roster guidelines, allocation money in any sense is as valuable as ever, and the Impact appear to have spent a chunk of theirs on what amounted to a 13-game rental.

Now, the Impact head into the New Year all but empty handed. To this point, the club has yet to sign any new player through the various MLS structures and will face the prospect of doing some major business in the coming months.

As for the existing roster, long-time wide option Justin Mapp has left the club via the recently-introduced free agency, while Dilly Duka has yet to be re-signed. Piatti certainly remains as a focal point from a more withdrawn position, but Biello is now tasked with rebuilding an attack that is currently spearheaded by the pacey Dominic Oduro and youngster Cameron Porter atop the field.

Prior to acquiring Drogba, the Impact were viewed as fringe contenders, a team considered one step away from making any real noise in a constantly reshuffling Eastern Conference. Now, with the Ivorian star apparently moving on, the Impact face an offseason as daunting as any in club history as the team faces the prospect of falling back into the pack yet again.

19 comments
    • mouf

      ya i think its safe to make a blanket statement over Drogba’s specific situation….

      less than what?

      HOT TAKES, GET YOUR INCOMPLETE HALF TAKES, HOT TAKES

      Like

  • Rob

    Seriously, how much does Drogba know about coaching? Do they really think he’s going to help them get out of the hole they’re in? Is he the best they could find? This seems like disrespecting just for the sake of it.

    Like

    • Quit Whining About Soccer in the US

      Yeah, doesn’t make sense. They want him to play and they don’t want to pay.

      Like

  • Adam M.

    This is perhaps the best example of why I don’t like 18-month DP contracts. You bring in a DP half-way into the season, which involves mid-season tinkering and adjustments to accommodate the player, who may or (in Drogba’s case) may not need time himself to adjust to the team and league. There have been plenty of example of big-name DP’s not doing much in their first half a season. Then you have the player on contract for 1 more year, assuming he liked the league enough and stays. That year is a full season, but it hardly makes longer term planning easy. It also great magnifies the impact of any injury, suspension, international call up, or other reasons a player may miss time. Then, poof, the player is gone and you have a huge hole in the lineup to fill at a key position. If I were a GM, I’d insist on get a full 2-year commitment, meaning you sign the player before the season starts. Or, I’d get a 2.5 year commitment if the player comes in during the summer window. An 18-month contract is just a bad idea. If a player won’t commit to giving your team 2 full seasons, you probably shouldn’t sign him.

    Like

    • Quit Whining About Soccer in the US

      Then he leaves half way through the season? I would say 2.5 years then.

      Like

  • Old School

    Until the league decides it wants to be serious about progressing and actually hunting for young talent; foreign and domestic, this trend will continue to make MLS a charade.

    Like

    • timberyanka

      Some clubs are already embracing that model of bringing in young talent. I know I am biased, but Portland seems to be leading in this respect. Lucas Melano belongs firmly in this class of player and it will be interesting to see what he develops into. You could even make an argument for Adi as well, although he is slightly older. Of course Portland is also in a unique situation, where the club doesn’t need to bring in big names to drive ticket and jersey sales.

      Like

      • Old School

        Yea, there’s a lot to respect about Portland (even excluding their Cup win this year).

        Like

  • Beto

    He will be 38 around the start of the 2016 season. As dominate as he was last year this has to be his last year playing. Can he wait 1 year before retiring to the coaching position?!?

    Like

  • dalomismo

    Turnover… it isn’t unique to MLS… in fact, probably less turnover there. Players come and go constantly in modern sports by choice or are sent on their way as teams are constantly looking for ways to improve. But… you do have an entire front office who make a full time living scouting options to acquire and contingency plans for injuries and departures whether sudden or by contract expiration. Most agree/clamor for free agency in MLS as do I… this is sure to bring much more movement. MLS wants young talent- they need to develop it as even though they are slowly improving in this measure, they are a ways off from being a primary “destination.”

    Like

  • Truthie

    Really, a 38 year old striker is the key to your plans for the future!!! Even in MLS that seems nuts.

    Like

  • Jack

    Yes he was great in the game he played but could he have really kept it up all season? I think there were even signs of slowing down in the playoffs against Columbus. Yeah it’s a blow but perhaps not as big as some might think. They’ll can perhaps spend that money else where.

    Like

  • Haydenjo

    Hard to read rhe articles on an iPad. The advertising takes over half the page.
    Site is going downhill

    Like

  • Andy Palmer

    If he leaves, he’ll likely retire, which means MLS/Impact get nothing. He won’t be able to play for Chelsea, as MLS will still have his playing rights for another year, but they want to bring him in as a coach – likely a “striker coach” who’s primary role is putting some spine back into the entire team.

    Like

  • Dave Steele

    re: drogba leaving montreal- i think that he will be a sub for chelsea so the Blues will have to agree to send some money to the Impact- whats $500 000 to an owner like chelsea has in order to get drogba across the pond and to have an immediate impact asap- they wont want any hassle with saputo- and i always was of the persuasion that drogba would have a much more difficult time in 2016- he leaves with his legend intact
    now montreal can hunt for a longer term, younger striker with more money to offer- and everybody wins in this scenario

    Like

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