The drawing power of Didier Drogba is unquestioned.
A large crowd greeted him upon arrival at Montréal–Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport three weeks ago and a packed house will be on hand Saturday when the Impact plays Philadelphia Saturday night at Stade Saputo (capacity 20,081). The team announced Wednesday morning that the game is sold out. Montreal hasn’t sold out a league game at Stade Saputo for two years.
”Drogba will play,” Impact coach Frank Klopas told reporters this week. “For how long? We have to take it one day at a time. He’s going to be in the 18 [game-day roster], he’s going to be available for the team. I know he’s excited and he’s looking forward and he’s working extremely hard. He can’t wait for the opportunity to step on the field.”
Montreal acquired Drogba’s rights in a trade with Chicago, which had claimed him as a Discovery Player. ESPN reported that he has signed an 18-month contract that will pay him a yearly salary of $3 million. He played last season for Chelsea and has not played competitively since the end of the English Premier League season in May.
Montreal’s run in the Concacaf Champions League knockout rounds earlier this year drew some huge crowds to Olympic Stadium, a roofed facility that was chosen to shield fans and players from snow and bitterly cold weather. A sellout crowd of 61,004 watched the home leg of the CCL final series that the Impact lost to Club America of Mexico.
“We are very pleased to announce this first sold-out match since our Champions League final,” executive vice-president Richard Legendre said. “Fans who might not have the chance to be at the stadium on Saturday will still have five more games they can attend until the end of the season." The Impact, which has played the fewest games (21) of any MLS team, will host four games in September and one in October. Two of its games early in the regular season were rescheduled to provide rest periods prior to CCL games.
Forward Dominic Oduro, who grew up in Ghana watching Drogba play on TV for Ivory Coast and several European club teams, is eager to get on the field with him in a real game.
“I think his presence is going to be a key,” Oduro said. “His presence alone is going to cause more discipline on the team, which is something I think we really need this half of the season. I can’t wait, especially as an African, I can’t wait to play alongside him. Maybe my first pass from him, maybe I might get some goose bumps a little bit.”