Montreal Impact confident even if Drogba out of key game in Orlando

Montreal Impact confident even if Drogba out of key game in Orlando

Main pic: Montreal Impact’s Nigel Reo-Coker, left, challenges New York Red Bulls’ Dax McCarty during second half MLS soccer action in Montreal, Wednesday, August 5, 2015. Reo-Coker had lost his place in the Montreal Impact’s starting 11 under former coach Frank Klopas, but the former West Ham and Aston Villa midfielder has new legs under Mauro Biello on a team that has gone unbeaten in six games since the coaching switch and the arrival for scoring star Didier Drogba. Photo credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes.

MONTREAL — Didier Drogba is a question mark for a key game at Orlando City on Saturday, but the Montreal Impact have been getting positive results lately no matter who is in the lineup.

It has yet to be determined if Drogba will play because Orlando’s Citrus Bowl has artificial turf, which would be hard on the 37−year−old’s knees.

“He’s not comfortable playing on artificial turf,” coach Mauro Biello said Wednesday. “He hasn’t played on it throughout his career.

“We’ll probably have a training session on artificial turf (on Thursday) just to get ourselves accustomed to the ball and the bounce and then train again Friday on (Orlando’s) turf and then make a decision based on that.”

Former Chelsea star Drogba, who joined the Impact in mid−season, has seven goals and an assist in six Major League Soccer games and has helped the team get on a six−game unbeaten run.

Orlando players like Canadian Cyle Larin, who set the MLS rookie scoring record of 14 this week with a hat−trick against the New York Red Bulls, said they were looking forward to facing a boyhood idol, but they may not get that chance.

Either way, the Impact is a confident team of late, coming off a sweep of three home games after a pair of draws on the west coast. One of them, a 1−1 tie at San Jose, was without Drogba and several other veterans in the lineup.

“Every game we play now we play with the mentality to win,” said midfielder Nigel Reo−Coker. “That’s the mentality you have to have in a championship−winning dressing room.

We don’t go in looking for a draw. There are different scenarios that might pop up, but we go in looking for wins.”

The Impact (12−11−6) hold the sixth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, four points up on seventh−place Orlando with two games in hand. Orlando will be eliminated if they lose to Montreal, while a draw would also put them in deep trouble.

Drogba’s two goals in a 2−0 victory over D.C. United On Saturday earned him MLS player of the week honours for the second time this month. He and Reo−Coker were picked for the MLS team of the week.

Reo−Coker, 31, has come alive since returning to the starting 11 when Biello replaced the fired Frank Klopas after an Aug. 29 loss in Toronto.

The former West Brom and Aston Villa midfielder was a regular until he fell out of Klopas’ favour in late June. He was on the bench for 10 matches until the coaching switch, but has played in all of the last six games, five as a starter.

“I haven’t paid too much attention to my individual performances,” said Reo−Coker. “For us, it’s a team effort.

That’s something Mauro implemented as soon as he took charge, that we’re nothing without one another. It’s the same throughout the team.”

Reo−Coker began his MLS career in 2013 with the Vancouver Whitecaps but was traded in August, 2014 to Chivas USA, who folded after last season. Montreal got the former England under−21 captain with the first pick in the waiver draft.

In the Impact’s last outing, Biello used a 4−3−3 formation with Marco Donadel just behind Reo−Coker and Patrice Bernier to shore up the defence and start the attack.

“A lot of people were surprised at that formation, seeing the three old men with crutches in the middle of the park,” said Reo−Coker. “For three old men I thought we did OK.

It makes the team very solid defensively and at the same time we managed to get up and create some chances.”

Bill Beacon, The Canadian Press

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