Fire Dreaming of Drogba After Pivotal USOC Win

Didier DrogbaIt’s been a mostly forgettable season so far for the Chicago Fire. Between the league-leading 11 losses and steady inability to produce goals (despite leading the league in shot attempts) this club and its fans have had little to look forward to in 2015. But with a recent quarterfinal win in the U.S. Open Cup, and now a real chance of signing star striker Didier Drogba, this week could be a turning point for the Fire.

After Wednesday’s impressive 3-1 win over Orlando City SC, Fire Manager Frank Yallop announced to the press that his club is pursuing Drogba. Chicago has a discovery claim on the Ivorian Striker, which basically means the Fire get first dibs on negotiations according to league regulations.

It’s fun to dream about a Drogba-type player coming to Toyota Park. Fire fans have seen some good players come to town after Cuauhtémoc Blanco, but none have had near the level of excitement, consistency or international recognition. While I don’t believe the 37-year-old Drogba would have the same impact Blanco did during his tenure, the deal would surely spark a level of excitement around the club not seen in years. This is, after all, one of the giants of modern soccer. He would immediately improve any MLS side, especially the goal-hungry Fire.

But before we all submit to Drogba fever, a few things should be considered.

Anyone who’s followed the club for at least a year will know to be weary of a Drogba discovery claim. The Fire and New England Revolution had rights to U.S. Men’s National Team and World Cup veteran Jermaine Jones last season, but just when everyone thought he was coming to Chicago, the official home of U.S. Soccer, he joined New England as result of a blind draw held by MLS Commissioner Don Garber.

Discovery and allocation rules have changed somewhat since last year, as the MLS likes to shuffle the deck on the rulebook every half season or so. Perhaps the league wanted to simplify the allocation process after the confusing and disappointing conclusion of the Jermaine Jones saga. Regardless, fans would be wise to wait for the big announcement before saving up for a new Drogba kit.

Bewildering MLS rules aside, consider the Montreal Impact as another reason to be cautious. The French-Canadian club is reportedly courting the long-time Chelsea target man, and it would seem a logical choice for the French-speaking striker. Apparently, recent talks between the team and Drogba’s representatives have been carried out in French. The shared culture and language could be the ultimate selling point in the end.

Drogba or not…

Maybe Chicago isn’t the most marketable team in this instance, but Wednesday’s sensational open cup win gave the Fire and its fans a reason to feel excited again. The front office, which has experienced some recent criticism, offered to buy tickets for anyone able to attend the USOC semifinal in Philadelphia to support the club.

With just two results away from winning the tournament, Frank Yallop’s side is riding high with the realistic prospect of a fifth U.S. Open championship.

Regardless of whether or not Drogba comes to Chicago, this week could mark a turning point for the Fire. Kennedy Igboananike had a breakout performance Wednesday with two goals as a substitute in the wake of ample criticism. The Nigerian striker combined his pace and ability with a confidence rarely seen from the designated player this year. And with key attacking players returning from injury and absence, (David Accam, Shaun Maloney, Joevin Jones, Patrick Nyarko, Mike Magee) maybe this club will play more like the talented team it appears to be on paper.

As Chicago awaits an answer from Drogba, the eventful week continues for the Fire when it hosts Jermaine Jones and the New England Revolution for a crucial Eastern Conference matchup Saturday at Toyota Park. It will be interesting to see Frank Yallop’s selections now that the club is nearly at full strength, and whether or not the mid-week momentum from the open cup can carry over to league play. (7:30 p.m. CDT CSN Chicago)