TORONTO — As if Toronto FC hadn't had enough of him Sunday, star Montreal striker Didier Drogba has dominated talk ahead of Thursday's playoff rematch between the two Canadian rivals.
Drogba's goals in the 54th and 55th minutes proved to be the difference in the Impact's 2-1 win over Toronto in the MLS regular-season finale, a victory that moved Montreal up to third in the Eastern Conference standings while dropping TFC into sixth.
The result also earned Montreal home-field advantage against Toronto.
"It's quite a challenge. I've never faced anybody quite like that," said Toronto defender Josh Williams, who was victimized on the second of the Drogba goals. "He's a physical presence, he's a physical player. And you've just got to put numbers around him.
"But at the end of the day, he's got a lot of support around him as well so we can't be focused too much on him."
With 11 goals in 11 MLS games, the 37-year-old Drogba has proved to be the Impact's late-season catalyst. Finding a way to stop him will be key for Toronto on Thursday at Saputo Stadium.
So how do you stop the Ivory Coast star?
"Just have presence on him," said Toronto coach Greg Vanney, a former defender who played against Drogba in the top French league. "For crying out loud, he made two runs in the box and nobody's even put a body on him or made any contact. They were relatively easy finishes in the grand scheme of things.
"I think we have to be a little more attentive to when the ball's getting into crossing areas or when he's making runs in the box, that we have to have presence on him and he doesn't get to just touch the ball on goal. He's got to have to deal with us and we've got to make it harder than that.
"He's obviously proven to be one of the greatest goal-scorers in the game and it was just way too easy in the box. We were just too loose."
Drogba, while in the autumn of his career, remains a game-changer.
"His record in terms of not just the goals but the trophies he's won and the presence that he's had in teams speaks for itself," said Toronto captain Michael Bradley.
"Obviously for Montreal, he has changed their team. There's no two ways about that," he added.
Stopping the former Chelsea talisman will be a team effort, he said. And even then there will be moments when things don't go to plan, Bradley said.
Defence has proven to be an issue for Toronto this season, but the issue has been masked by a well-stocked offence led by MVP candidate Sebastian Giovinco.
Toronto gave up 58 goals this season, tied for worst in the league with Chicago and New York City FC. Vanney team also scored 58 times, second only to the New York Red Bulls' 62.
TFC will once again be without veteran defender Damien Perquis, who remains sidelined with a hamstring issue.
It's the first playoff outing for Toronto, which entered the league in 2007. Montreal, which came onboard in 2012, lost a first-round encounter with the Houston Dynamo in 2013.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press