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Ex-Chelsea star Drogba to make MLS debut vs Union at sold out Saputo Stadium

MONTREAL — The soccer world knows that Didier Drogba can score goals, but his Montreal Impact teammate Dominic Oduro wants to know if he can also dance.

He may find out Saturday night when Drogba, the former Chelsea and Ivory Coast star, makes his Impact debut against the Philadelphia Union.

"I just told him, should he score, we should do an African dance," Oduro, a native of Ghana, said Friday. "I think he was just rolling his eyes, but I want to say that's a way of saying yes.

"Ambroise Oyongo (from Cameroon) and I have been doing it and we are trying to get Drogba into it, so maybe he'll warm up to it. I think eventually he'll come around. He's from Africa. He has to dance."

There should be a party atmosphere at 20,801-seat Saputo Stadium, which has sold out for the first time in nearly two years. There was a mob scene at Trudeau Airport when Drogba arrived after signing on July 31 and ticket sales have shot up for the team's remaining home games.

Coach Frank Klopas announced this week that Drogba would see his first Major League Soccer action against the Union. The 37-year-old will not start, but will come off the bench at some point, likely in the second half.

Drogba hasn't played since his final match with Chelsea in May and has been working his way into shape.

"We have to be smart and bring him along," said Klopas. "We don't want any setbacks (that) you see when guys have been rushed in.

"He's been training hard. He'll play. Now he needs game rhythm."

The Impact got another boost when top defender Laurent Ciman agreed to cut short an approved mid-season vacation to return from his native Belgium for the match, although that request was partly because the team was uncertain of how many healthy defenders would be available.

And midfielder Justin Mapp is expected to play in his 300th MLS game, becoming the youngest to reach that mark at 30 years, 10 months and four days, edging Seattle's Chad Marshall who was seven days older when he did it.

The Impact may be missing top playmaker Ignacio Piatti to a calf injury, however.

The speedy Oduro risks losing his job to Drogba if the Impact stay with their usual one-striker system, so they may not be on the field together often unless Oduro is moved to the wing.

He said that doesn't dampen the moment.

"I'm excited, everybody's excited, the city's pumped up," said Oduro. "It's going to be crazy at the stadium."

He said Drogba has fit in well in the dressing room and has offered advice and encouragement to younger players. Now they want to win this match for their new teammate.

"We all know it's basically The Didier Show, but I think the room is fine," said Oduro. "If anything, we like the fact that the attention will be on him.

"Maybe the whole Philly team will be looking at Drogba and me or (Andres) Romero will be running around. We understand and we're happy to be part of it."

Drogba declined to talk to the media before the game.

"He has tremendous respect for all the media but right now he just wants to focus on playing," said Klopas. "He doesn't want to take away the focus of the team and the importance of the game."

The Impact (8-9-4) hope to move up from sixth place while the ninth-place Union (6-13-6) desperately need a win to keep their dwindling playoff hopes alive.

Bill Beacon, The Canadian Press

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