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Piatti, Oduro carry scoring load for Impact in Drogba’s absence

MONTREAL—There were concerns about how the Montreal Impact would cope without Didier Drogba to start the season, but it turns out they’re not so bad without him.  

Currently training with USL outfit Sacramento Republic as he avoids training and playing games on turf, the 37-year-old Drogba didn’t dress in last Sunday’s 3-2 season opening win over the Vancouver Whitecaps in Vancouver, nor was he present at the Impact’s home opener on Saturday at Olympic Stadium, where they improved their record to 2-0-0 with a 3-0 win over the New York Red Bulls.  

Drogba, who scored 11 goals in his first 11 games after signing with the Impact as a free agent last fall, is set to miss two of the next three games—on turf at CenturyLink field in Seattle on April 25th and again on turf at Olympic Stadium in Montreal against Columbus Crew—but the opening two games show that the Impact’s attack isn’t all about one man only.

“Obviously you know what Didier brings to the team and we're preparing without Didier,” head coach Mauro Biello said after Saturday’s win. “But everyone is important on this team and players are stepping up and showing that we’re very capable and that there’s a lot of quality players on this team that are showing what they are capable of players.”

In Drogba’s absence, Ignacio Piatti and Domenic Oduro have picked up the scoring slack, tallying five of the six goals so far. Against New York, Oduro got the ball rolling with the opening goal in the 58th minute—an easy tap-in from a Piatti assist—and the Argentine put the game beyond reach following a quick counter attack 13 minutes later.

Explaining the two players’ fine form, Oduro said that the chemistry between Piatti and himself has greatly improved since a year ago. 

“I think we all saw last year during the Champions League that there was a kind of imbalance between Ignacio and I trying to find the right timing, and I think as we progressed and playing alongside each other for the past year it helped us build confidence and to trust in each other and I think that is what’s happening right now,” Oduro said. “We’re understanding each other on the field; and off the field too he invites me sometimes to go eat so that’s good too; it’s kinda helped the chemistry.”

Not wanting to take too much credit for the positive start to the season, Piatti emphasized that many other players have also played a part.  

“It’s the whole team that played well, you had (goalkeeper Evan) Bush who made an important save in the second half to keep us ahead, and in Vancouver too it was a team performance,” Piatti said in French. “We’ll take a day’s rest but then we have to focus on our next game against Dallas, which is another very good team”. 

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