Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Drogba Impresses Impact Teammates, Lifts Morale and Ambitions on MLS Squad

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Drogba Impresses Impact Teammates, Lifts Morale and Ambitions on MLS Squad

Article excerpt

Drogba lifts Impact's morale and ambitions

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MONTREAL - After training this week, Didier Drogba took Montreal Impact rookie strikers Romario Williams and Anthony Jackson aside for some extra shooting practice.

On Wednesday, more players joined in, looking to catch a bit of scoring magic from the former Chelsea star who has become a giant presence since signing with the Major League Soccer club on July 27.

"He gave us some advice and tips on where to shoot and how to shoot the ball," said midfielder Maxim Tissot. "It's Drogba. You listen to him."

At 37, Drogba's days as a Premier League superstar may be behind him, but his combination of size, skill, scoring touch and attitude has helped boost morale, energy and ambitions on an Impact side that looked to be fading in August.

While their first priority remains to clinch a playoff spot, the Impact are starting to believe that with Drogba they can reach much higher.

The Ivory Coast striker made his Impact debut Aug. 22, playing the final 31 minutes of a 1-0 loss at home to the Philadelphia Union.

A sore toe kept him out until his first start on Saturday night, when he scored a hat-trick -- one goal with the left foot, one with the right and the other on a header -- in a 4-3 comeback win over the Chicago Fire that had the sellout crowd at Saputo Stadium roaring. The performance earned him MLS player of the week honours.

"Its like a storybook start," said Mauro Biello, the former Impact captain who was in his first game as head coach since replacing the fired Frank Klopas. "For him to come in and contribute like that right away was great.

"That was encouraging for the group. Hopefully he continues to transmit the leadership and positive energy he's brought. It's not only his play on the field but everything else that comes with it that brings the biggest effect."

The win put the Impact (9-11-4) into the sixth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot, but with games in hand on all their rivals. …

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