With Drogba talk swirling, Fire beat Orlando to advance in Cup

SHARE With Drogba talk swirling, Fire beat Orlando to advance in Cup

Just the mere mention of the Fire’s pursuit of Didier Drogba has generated buzz around the club. A winner of four English titles and one European championship with Chelsea, Drogba is an international superstar and the machinations around his next home have become one of the biggest stories in North American soccer.

But believe it or not, the Fire have things to do that don’t involve Drogba. And they showed they’ve kept their focus by beating Orlando City 3-1 on Wednesday night in a U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal. Substitute Kennedy Igboananike scored the game-winner in the 87th minute and added a stoppage-time extra for the Fire, who might have saved their season by advancing to the semifinals for the third straight year where they’ll play Aug. 11 at the Philadelphia Union.

“What can I say? I’m very happy we won the game,” said Igboananike, whose playing time figures to decrease if the Fire sign Drogba. “I think it was a great energy to come in and try to make everybody happy.”

The Fire managed to do that without Drogba, though midfielder Harry Shipp said Tuesday the players are trying not to pay much attention to that story.

“You want some resolution, but honestly when you’re worried about playing a game every three days you’re not thinking too much about it,” Shipp said. “You’re worried about, how am I going to get my body right to run another seven miles or whatever it is, and that’s the next game.”

Of course, a quick resolution would be welcome for the Fire. Last summer, they were involved in a drawn-out courtship of U.S. international Jermaine Jones but lost him to New England in a blind draw. Not only did they miss on Jones, but that saga effectively ruined any chance of them signing any other name players last season.

That’s something they’d want to avoid this time around, regardless of whether it concerns Drogba or other players.

“We’re trying to get as quick an answer as we can because we don’t want a Jermaine Jones (situation), dragging on dragging on dragging on and then he’s gone,” coach Frank Yallop said Monday before the Fire publicly acknowledged their interest in Drogba. “We want to get a decision because as I sit here now, one of those players that we’re interested in could sign somewhere else because time’s ticking.”

Time is indeed ticking on Drogba and the Fire. They hope the chase that involves them, the Montreal Impact and reportedly clubs in Italy and Qatar ends soon with him donning a Fire shirt.

After Wednesday’s game, Yallop said the Fire are “waiting on an answer in probably the next 48 hours.”

“We’re just waiting for sort of a decision from their side and what way he wants to go, and he has choices,” Yallop said. “We feel we’ve put a good pitch in. He’s very happy with what we’ve done, but again it’s up to the person himself to choose and we’ll see.”

Shaun Maloney, who made his first appearance since suffering a back injury June 16, said Tuesday “I think we’d be very proud to call (Drogba) a teammate if it could happen.” That said, he’s taking the whole thing in stride.

“Throughout your career, the club you’re at are linked to different players,” Maloney said. “I think until it’s actually announced then it’s the same as everyone else. It’s just a bit of speculation and a bit of hope, I think.”

Note: The Cubs announced Eric Gehrig will throw out a ceremonial first pitch before Tuesday’s game at Wrigley Field. He will be joined by Chris Ritter and Michael Stephens to sing the seventh inning stretch.

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