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Exclusive: Kappelhof excited to face Drogba in MLS

New Chicago Fire defender Johan Kappelhof is excited to join the team - he just has to set foot in the country first.

"I have never been to the US, because I'm still waiting for my work permit," he told Goal Netherlands earlier this week. "At the end of this week or next week it will be completed. Then I will fly to Chicago right away."

While the prospect of pitting his defensive skills against the MLS' best and also former stars at European clubs like Orlando City's Kaka and New York City FC's Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo is enticing, it's a player who nearly left the league during the offseason the 25-year-old is most excited to face.

"It's a great experience (to play against Kaka, Lampard and Pirlo)," he said. "It's good to compete with these kind of players, but I especially look forward to playing against (Montreal Impact forward) Didier Drogba, because he's a Chelsea icon and that's one of my favorite clubs."

Kappelhof was convinced to join Fire after he spoke with general manager Nelson Rodríguez and the team's new coach Veljko Paunovic. "Chicago Fire is starting up a new project, with new norms, values and players," the player said. "I felt that the club wanted me, a family feeling. That really spoke to me. I was convinced after that."

But the former Ajax youth product also did his homework on the Fire. He asked forward Collins John, who played for the Fire in 2010 and is still playing soccer in the U.S. and ex-Toroto FC assistant Bob de Klerk for their advice about the league. That research could help him be ready for some of the league's unique challenges - challenges that Drogba and former Liverpool star Steven Gerrard have groused about publically.

"They both told me that soccer in the US is becoming more and more popular," he said of his Dutch advisers. "The MLS is a league that is very strong and physical. Americans always give it their everything, they have the passion in their game. Also the trips for away matches are long and theres the difference in weather and time zones. It's important not to underestimate that."

"My family will join me to Chicago. I'm told that it's a wonderful city, so I really look forward to it."