The 38-year-old striker sat out four of the Impact’s first five games of the season in order to avoid playing on artificial turf and began their clash with Chicago on the bench due to his lack of match practice over recent weeks.
Kennedy Igboananike gave the hosts the lead at Toyota Stadium just before the half-hour mark with a curling effort from the edge of the box, but the tide of the match swung five minutes after the break when Montreal head coach Mauro Biello decided to replace Johan Venegas with Drogba.
Just six minutes after his introduction, the former Chelsea star grabbed the equaliser in audacious fashion, converting Dominc Oduro’s cross with a cute backheel flick to set his side’s comeback in motion.
Montreal subsequently looked reinvigorated over the rest of the second half and eventually found the winner in stoppage-time when Ignacio Piatti fired home to hand the Canadian club all three points and extend their lead at the top of the Eastern Conference to three points.
Speaking to MLSSoccer.com at the final whistle, coach Biello hailed the spirit his side showed on the afternoon and picked out Drogba for particular praise after seeing the Ivorian make a scoring return to the side.
“It was a difficult game for us in the first half, I thought they did a good job pressing us and we weren’t able to unbalance them and get forward,” Biello said. “For us, obviously the second half was much better and we were able to unbalance them and when you have Didier Drogba, who is a big presence and was able to score a key goal for us, and a great goal by Nacho at the end, I think these are the types of players that make a difference in a game and they did that tonight.”
Drogba himself added: “It’s good and I hope that I will get some more games now that I’m training with the team. I think it’s the first time I’ve been training all week with the team since I came back, since February, and it feels good to be back on the team and to have the chance to play like this and to see the atmosphere after the win.”
Drogba signed an 18-month deal with the Impact last summer after his ending his second spell at Chelsea and went on to score 11 times in 11 regular season games as the club secured a third place finish in the East.
The Ivorian forward subsequently added another goal in the 3-0 first-round playoff win over Canadian rivals Toronto FC, before his side’s hopes of a maiden MLS Cup title were dashed with a narrow 4-3 aggregate defeat to Columbus Crew SC in the Conference Semifinals.
After coming close to re-joining Chelsea in a backroom role over the winter, the Blues legend has seen just 60 minutes of action during the first six weeks of the 2016 campaign and is still far from 100 percent despite his goal against Chicago.
Nevertheless, Montreal have coped well without their star man, and now he is back and eager to contribute, the rest of MLS better beware.
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