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Young Orlando City Forwards Relishing Chance to Face Idol Drogba

Orlando City strikers Cyle Larin and Bryan Rochez looking forward to getting on the field against one of their favorite players from their childhood in Montreal's Didier Drogba.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

A week after breaking the rookie goal scoring record, and having received a congratulatory message from the man whose record he broke, Cyle Larin will have a chance to impress another player he has looked up to.

This time it will be his favorite player in history: Didier Drogba.

"He's my favorite player in the world," Larin said. "I watched him when he was at Chelsea and Galatasaray. Hopefully I can get his jersey after the game."

It's a big opportunity for Larin and another Orlando City forward who looked up to Drogba, Bryan Rochez, to be on the same field playing against their idol, in a game that essentially amounts to a playoff game for the Lions. Larin is coming off one of his best performances of the season in which he scored a hat trick against the New York Red Bulls, but was snubbed for MLS Player of the Week in favor of his favorite player, who scored two goals against D.C. United Saturday.

After the game, Larin received a message on Twitter from former rookie goal scoring record holder Damani Ralph, also a UConn alum, congratulating and encouraging the rookie striker.

"He just said congrats and that I have a great future ahead of me," Larin said. "I said 'thank you.' He's a nice guy."

The hat trick ended a string of seven straight games without a goal for Larin — a stint that caused many fans to wonder if he should be in the starting lineup, or if he was tiring in this last leg of the season.

Now, in the Lions' biggest game of the season, Larin has a chance to put together strong performances in back-to-back games with his idol on the other side.

Drogba, meanwhile, was courted by Orlando City during the transfer window, though he reportedly wasn't interested. Instead, he ended up in Montreal, and in the six games he has appeared in has scored seven goals, leading the Impact to an unbeaten month of September, and giving them the inside track on Orlando City for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Even though he looks up to Drogba, Larin doesn't model his game after him. There are some similarities between the two, given their physical size, but Larin was adamant in saying he wants to be his own player. Orlando City midfielder Kaká agreed, saying it's unfair to compare players.

"I don't like to compare players, because everyone is their own individual and has their own characteristics," Kaká said.

Rochez, who has shown some goal-scoring prowess of his own as a substitute with goals in each of the last three games, is also looking forward to the chance to play against Drogba.

"From a kid I loved Drogba (when he played in) Chelsea, I like how he plays and it's a very good opportunity for me to see him play in person, but he (plays) for Montreal and I (play) for Orlando," Rochez said. "I fight for Orlando, and for three points for Orlando."

Larin said the first thing he hopes to do is exchange jerseys with the Impact's new star, though he wasn't sure quite how he would go about asking to do that.

"Uh, I might just stare at him for a couple seconds," Larin said. "Then just ask him for his jersey."

If Larin keeps up the kind of play he has shown this season as a rookie, it may be Drogba asking to exchange jerseys.