Being known as the team that has Didier Drogba isn't a bad thing. It's certainly an upgrade from being known simply as a team that exists, then as a team with a bunch of totally washed guys from Serie A. But this season, the Impact have designs on becoming known as a team that can compete for MLS Cup.
This is, for the most part, the same Impact team as last season. Given how good they were after Drogba's arrival, that's not a bad thing. They're hoping that the additions of Harry Shipp and a couple of draft picks -- along with the improvement of a handful of academy products -- will be enough to solidify their team. Time will tell if they were more patient or complacent.
2015 record 15-13-6, 3rd place in Eastern Conference
2015 Playoffs Eastern Conference Semifinals
Key additions Harry Shipp
Key losses Dilly Duka, Nigel Reo-Coker, Justin Mapp
Projected Starting XI (4-2-3-1) Evan Bush; Donny Toia, Victor Cabrera, Laurent Ciman, Ambroise Oyongo; Marco Donadel; Patrice Bernier; Johan Venegas, Harry Shipp, Ignacio Piatti; Didier Drogba
If Didier Drogba is not a good enough reason to follow and support the Montreal Impact, I don't know what is. After scoring 11 goals in 11 games and terrorizing MLS defenders, Drogba almost left La Belle Province, as he was close to joining Chelsea's coaching staff. But he's back and the legendary striker will put on a show in every stadium he plays in, especially his new, and possibly final home, Stade Saputo.
Drogba producing goals and making everyone better. This could also be interpreted as making sure that the rest of the team is able to help Drogba as much as he can help them. When you have a beast with the capacity of scoring hat tricks seemingly on demand, a lot of attention will be going toward him. With his capacity to suck in defenders to cover him, Drogba is far from being selfish and is also the perfect set-up man for his teammates. He will free up space for the rest of the team and will give a chance to Mauro Biello's offensive system to thrive. It's not empty hype of a big name: he is actually the key to that system.
Once again, the Impact starts with a brand new coaching staff. This time, the man formerly known as the eternal assistant in Montreal, Mauro Biello, (who took over as interim boss during the 2015 season after Frank Klopas was fired) has an understanding of the Impact culture and will therefore not be wiping the slate clean as his predecessors have. He will have the chance to implement a more attractive style of football, and he'll be tasked with making the most of what will almost surely be Drogba's final year. That gives this season a sense of immediacy.
With the back-to-back games during the end of last season and the playoffs, the Montreal-Toronto rivalry has finally found its true colors in MLS. That rivalry could evolve into something truly nasty -- though hopefully without any real violence. The cultural rivals are scheduled to play at least five times this year -- three times in the regular season and twice more in the Canadian Championship -- but the most interesting will be the first on April 23.