It's often said that MLS is a hard league to adjust to because of the travel demands and overall physicality. That wasn't the case for Jermaine Jones in 2014 as he helped guide the New England Revolution to the MLS Cup Final after joining the team in August. Didier Drogba, who made his MLS debut in late August, is hoping to have the same affect on the Montreal Impact this year.
With the Frenchman scoring in bunches, Paul Tenorio of the Orlando Sentinel posed an interesting question: Could Drogba be the best MLS mid-season signing ever? We at The Bent Musket have narrowed the field to Drogba and Jones. So the question is, which player has had the bigger impact?
It seems that both the Revs and Impact were one piece away when they made their respective marquee signing. For New England, Jones provided the midfield grit that the team greatly needed. For Montreal, Drogba was the pure goal-scorer that would help them get results. Both players have been undeniable successes.
That said, I'm going to lean on the Alexi Lalas Theory when I say Drogba is a better mid-season signing. As Dr. Lalas explains, goals are soccer's most valuable commodity. With this in mind, consider that Droga has found the back of the net seven times in six games. Add to that one assist and you have a game-changer that can make any team a playoff contender.
Designated Players are primarily judged by their on-field performance, but they conceptually offer a lot more than that. What I'm talking about is their off-field presence - an intangible quality that can't truly be measured.
With Jones, there is no denying that he has raised the profile of the Revs and is the most recognizable face to don the red, white, and blue jersey in quite some time. However, he pales in comparison to what Drogba offers the Impact. The Ivorian carved out a legendary career for Chelsea FC, as he amassed over 100 goals in his time in London.
Also, with Drogba, the Impact now have a special feeling about them. That also can't be measured, but Drogba is a DP in every sense of the word.
The homer in me struggles to pick Drogba over Jones, the man who has helped the Revs evolve into an elite MLS club. Since joining the Revs last season, the German-born midfielder has featured in both a box-to-box and destroyer role, filling a vital hole on Jay Heaps roster. He has made the players around him (see: Scott Caldwell) better, added a new dimension to the attack and even offered defensive depth.
But this isn't as much about Jones as it is about Drogba. The former Chelsea star has scored seven goals in his first five starts (including a pair of multi-goal outings). The Impact have yet to lose a game that featured Drogba in the Starting XI (4-0-1). And the Ivorian striker has instantly become Montreal's greatest scoring threat (despite starting 18 fewer matches than club goals leader Ignacio Piatti, Drogba has scored just one fewer goal).
It's close, but Drogba's sensational start has him poised to become the greatest mid-season signing in recent memory.
I'm not going to lie, Drogba's first month or so in MLS has been nothing short of legendary. Even at 37 years old the ex-Chelsea striker from the Ivory Coast still has it and is proving to be a menace for the league's defenders. Like Jones with the Revs last season, Drogba has reinvigorated his new club. The Impact are now flourishing with a true striker that is capable of putting the ball into the net. There are a lot of signings around the league that I will say are the "final piece of the puzzle" for certain teams. Perhaps not as big of name as Drogba or Jones, Kei Kamara for Columbus Crew SC is one example of how large of an affect the right player can have on team.
But if we're going to accurately compare Jones in 2014 and Drogba in 2015 (which is very difficult thing to do since they play different positions and have a different impact on the game all together), we have to wait for the playoffs. Jones took a good Revs team and helped rally them to a second place finish in the East and a trip to the MLS Cup Final. I don't know if Drogba can get the Impact up to second place but Montreal has two games in hand and seems a lock for the playoffs at this point. They're going to be a tough in the playoffs no matter where they finish but can Drogba single-handedly carry Montreal to the East playoff crown? I'm not sure, but if he does then we can come back and finish this debate.