The Vancouver Whitecaps will kick off the MLS regular season on Sunday against the Montreal Impact, bringing joy to the thousands of fans that have been waiting patiently for the 2016 season to arrive.
We decided to touch base with John Richan of fellow SBNation blog Mount Royal Soccer, to get his thoughts on the upcoming match. We asked him about the drama surrounding Didier Drogba, what his expectations for the Impact are this season, and which players he's keeping an eye on.
86Forever: So, this Drogba thing. Is it distraction?
John Richan: I actually do not think that Drogba is a huge distraction to the Impact at this point in time. I think the other players have a huge deal of respect for him and are pretty sympathetic to his situation (not playing on artificial turf). By the looks of how training camp went in Florida last week Drogba won't be a distraction.
However if Montreal gets off to a rough start to the season there is no doubt the questions surrounding Drogba could come back into the spotlight. The key with Drogba will be managing his playing time over a long MLS season and make sure he is ready to go when the games start to count.
86F: What are the expectations for the Impact this season?
JR: I think the expectations are quite high for the Impact going into the 2016 season. The reality is that the team probably won't be as bad as they were between last March-July but they won't be as good as they were between August - October. If the Impact can improve their road record from the past two years they should be in good shape.
I think they key for Montreal is to get into the playoffs and avoid the one game knockout round. Last year all of the highly charged high pressure games packed into a short period of time hurt the Impact in second round of the playoffs. If the Impact can roll into October healthy the sky is the limit.
86F: Which new, or underrated player are you hoping to see big things from this season?
JR: I know a lot of other Impact supporters might not agreed with me on this one but I am still really optimistic that midfielder Johan Venegas can play a big role for the Impact this season. Venegas was brought in from Costa Rican side Alajuelense around the same time as Didier Drogba last summer.
With the arrival of Lucas Ontivero on loan from Galatasaray in the off season a lot of people feel that Venegas has dropped down the depth chart, however I still think Venegas is key to the Impact succeeding in 2016. Another new player (perhaps not underrated) that is set to have a big season is midfielder Harry Shipp who was brought in from the Chicago Fire.