COLUMBUS, Ohio – Didier Drogba was quiet in the immediate aftermath of Montreal’s MLS playoff exit.
The Impact’s talismanic striker sat in his locker, slowly getting dressed.
He didn’t brush off the media, instead essentially telling reporters in French that he wasn’t going to share in the immediate aftermath of the season-ending loss to Columbus Crew SK.
The 37-year-old Ivorian helped make it a year to remember.
The big, powerful striker added to the Drogba legend with 11 goals in 11 regular season games with another against Toronto in the playoffs.
But he was kept off the scoresheet twice by Columbus.
Drogba went down twice in the first half Sunday, getting treatment after crumpling to the turf during a 3-1 loss that resulted in a 4-3 aggregate defeat in the Eastern Conference semifinal.
He was quiet on the night, adding touches like a flick-on or audacious try at a backheel but not grabbing the game by the scruff of its neck.
Argentine defender Gaston Sauro, who will miss Game 1 of the Eastern final against the Red Bulls due to yellow card accumulation, did a fine job of marshalling Drogba.
Drogba was a sandpaper-like irritant in Game 1.
He was subdued in Game 2 – like the Montreal offence, playing in bursts.
“Didier’s fine,” said coach Mauro Biello, when asked if his star was hurt.
“You have to applaud his effort. I think someone that’s come in here mid-season, without pre-season, to be able to play all those games – 90 minutes – and fight and push and score all those goals is exceptional. All I can say is good things about what he brought to this team.”
The Impact announced Friday that Biello would be the team’s head coach for the next three years.
Drogba’s talents, along with Biello’s steadying hand after taking over from Frank Klopas in late August, helped turn around a team that was spinning its wheels.
The Impact (15-13-6) finished the season on a 7-2-2 run.
Montreal made short work of playoff debutante Toronto.
The Impact remain a work in progress.
They showed they can field an elegant starting 11 with Ignacio Piatti – who was named team MVP – and Dilly Duka flanking Drogba in attack and the likes of Marco Donadel, Patrice Bernier, Johan Venegas, Nigel Reo-Coker or Calum Mallace forming a determined midfield.
Evan Bush is a quality goalkeeper, shielded by Belgian international Laurent Ciman, Victor Cabrera, Donny Toia and Ambroise Oyongo.
Ciman is a class defender but prone to an occasional lapse in judgment, as shown by conceding a needless penalty Sunday.
And while Ciman, listed at six foot, is good in the air, the backline is small.
The six-foot-three Kamara, a powerful header, had a field day at home.
The Montreal reserves are young for the most part.
Size and experience, plus some help up front, will improve the squad.