The Montreal Impact won't risk Didier Drogba playing on turf to start the season, club technical director Adam Braz told reporters on Thursday.
Drogba, who turns 38 next week, is being preserved for the long haul, Braz said, but if the club sticks to its statement, he'll miss four of the first five games of the season. The Impact open at BC Place, home of their Canadian foe Vancouver Whitecaps, on Sunday and then take on the New York Red Bulls at Stade Olympique, one of two games the club will play at the venue before shifting to its regular home, Stade Saputo.
The Impact's third game is on grass at FC Dallas on March 19, but they go to Seattle's CenturyLink Field on April 2 to face the Sounders followed by another game at Stade Olympique against Columbus–a playoff rematch–on April 9. After that, the Impact only have four remaining games on turf, including the season finale at the New England Revolution.
Drogba was reportedly in talks with Chelsea and Montreal to retire with a year left on his contract with MLS and return to Stamford Bridge, where he became a club legend, as an assistant coach. He ultimately returned to the Impact, where he scored 11 goals in 11 games upon his arrival last summer, and is expected to lead the line for the club that reached the Eastern Conference semifinals in 2015.
Drogba is not the first superstar to avoid playing on turf surfaces, with Thierry Henry routinely missing road games on such fields during his time with the Red Bulls. Whether that stipulation holds for him throughout the entire season remains to be seen.