MONTREAL — A wounded beast awaits the Montreal Impact in Dallas.
The Impact (2-0-0), with star forward Didier Drogba finally on hand, can expect an ornery opponent when they face an FC Dallas (1-1-0) side still smarting from a 5-0 loss last week to their Texas rival, the Houston Dynamo.
"They're definitely going to be under a bit of pressure," said Impact midfielder Kyle Bekker, acquired from Dallas in July for defender Bakary Soumare. "Like any team in the league, after a loss like that you want to play the next game as fast as possible."
Dallas finished atop Major League Soccer's Western Conference last season, tied with the New York Red Bulls for the most points in the league with 60. They went 13-2-2 at home in 2015 and opened this season with a 2-0 home win over Philadelphia.
But they got crushed in Houston, conceding four goals in the opening 27 minutes.
"The first two goals came quick so it put them down," said forward Dominic Oduro. "When a team gets hurt like that they come on really wild, just to make amends for such a loss.
"That's something we have to watch out for. We have to be smart and try as much as possible to settle in and play our game. Gone are the days when we have to worry about other teams. Our whole mindset now is we if we play our game and get it right the results will come."
Montreal is a confident group after opening the campaign with a 3-2 win in Vancouver followed by a 3-0 victory over the Red Bulls on Saturday at Olympic Stadium.
The club will be bolstered by the arrival of 38-year-old Drogba, who has been training (and avoiding artificial turf) in Sacramento, Calif. Dallas is the only stop in Montreal's first five games with a grass field.
Coach Mauro Biello hoped to have the Chelsea legend train with the Impact in Dallas on Thursday and Friday, but did not say if, or how long, he will play. However, at least an appearance off the bench is likely for the big striker who scored 11 times in 11 games when he joined Montreal last summer.
The Impact hasn't needed him so far, with Ignacio Piatti on fire with three goals and an assist. Oduro has two goals in the first two matches and newcomer Harry Shipp has contributed two assists from the midfield.
"We know what (Drogba) can do and that, when he's fit, he can help this team," said Biello. "And the players know that too.
"It's about finding that right moment to put him in a situation where he's comfortable in terms of his conditioning."
Dallas has some dangerous attackers in Mauro Diaz, Maximiliano Urruti and especially Fabian Castillo, who left the season opener on a stretcher and then, according to reports, looked off a step against Houston.
It may be a prime opportunity to pick up a second road win for Montreal, but Biello cautioned against overconfidence.
"It's a different mindset now," he said. "Now it's a team that's thinking 'We've got to redeem ourselves after a 5-0 loss last week.'
"Our players have to be ready for that. It's not an ordinary game."
The Impact may be without defensive midfielder Marco Donadel, who was nursing a leg injury this week. Calum Mallace will likely take that spot alongside veteran Eric Alexander.
Bill Beacon, The Canadian Press