Two former Chicago Fire players, Dilly Duka and Justin Mapp, were in the starting 11 for Montreal, but one former Fire was missing. Impact head coach Frank Klopas would be sitting up in the press box for this one as he was serving a one game suspension for a red card assessed during Montreal’s last game against the Columbus Crew. Assistant coach Mauro Biello (his 8th game as head coach with a 2-3-2 record so far) would be the man in charge of the attempt by Montreal to earn their first win of the season on the road.
Jack McInerney got the start in the striker position ahead of Marco Di Vaio. Di Vaio, the man who after 20 years of professional soccer this week announced he would be retiring after the MLS regular season, would be on the bench.
For the Chicago Fire, like the Montreal Impact, it has been a season to forget. With just 5 victories all season (they have a ton of ties) they sit in 9th position in the Eastern Division just 7 points ahead of the Impact. With a loss or tie on this day they would be officially eliminated from the playoffs. This would be a sad ending for Logan Pause. He too is retiring after the season. Pause has played 13 seasons in the MLS and all of them with the Fire. The long-time player deserves a better send off.
With Di Vaio on the bench Italian veteran central defender Matteo Ferrari was wearing the captain’s armband. Ignacio Piatti, Patrice Bernier and Troy Perkins were all left out of the line-up due to injury. Midfielder Mapp was a surprise insertion into the starting 11 as he had been off for a long time with an injury. As might have been expected, Mapp did not have much of an impact on the game. He just did not have the legs or spark he usually does.
Early on in the game Montreal had a hard time even getting a touch on the ball. Chicago led in possession 80% to 20% and Impact players spent the first 10 minutes doing a lot of defending and chasing. This pressure led to the first chance of the game for the Fire. Quincy Amarikwa got his head on the ball and it was so well struck that he had his two hands up in celebration of what he thought would be the game’s opening goal. Only to cover his face in disbelief with those two hands because Impact keeper Evan Bush got his left hand on it at the last minute. An amazing save for a guy who needs a few of them over the last couple of Impact games in order to convince Klopas and the management that he should be the team’s goalie next season.
Montreal then started playing a little better and began to impose themselves more in the game. They were, however, moving the ball around much slower than the Fire. The ball carrier also had trouble because the other Impact players were not moving off the ball thus not giving him many pass options. Once again winger Dilly Duka ran miles for the team. Never giving up his speed adds a dimension to the side that they don’t have except for with Romero on the other side of the field.
Not much happened in regards to scoring chances until quite late in the 1st half. Possibly could be due to the awful conditions of the field. A more likely explanation was the lack of imagination and intensity by the two teams. That changed late on with McInerney believing that he had scored a goal in the 38th minute. Romero lofted a ball inside the ball to Mapp. He headed the ball back to McInerney, who wasn’t deterred that the ball was behind him as he launched himself into the air and using a bicycle kick launched the ball beyond the Fire’s Sean Johnson. Unfortunately, the assistant on the far side had judged Mapp offside. It was a questionable call. In the 43rd minute when Bush once again had to come up with a big save. Patrick Nyarko crossed the ball and Amarikwa got in behind Hassoun Camara. His header went across the face of goal to an unmarked Florent Sinama-Pongolle. Bush came out to cut down the angle and stopped the in close shot with his upper body allowing his team to go into the half time break still tied.
The 2nd half was pretty much a recreation of the 1st half. Very few offensive chances for either side. Chicago’s best chance came in the 66th minute forcing Bush into another great save. After Ferrari was called for a foul just outside the Montreal penalty box in a central position the Fire’s captain Jeff Larentowicz took the free kick. It was a low and powerful shot, but Bush was up to the test and made a diving save to his left to keep the ball out of the Montreal net. Montreal’s best chance happened in injury time when substitute Issey Nakajima-Farran curled an early ball behind the Fire defense onto the path of fellow substitute Di Vaio. Showing he had his wits about him keeper Johnson came way out of his net to clear the ball before Di Vaio could get to it.
It was Fan Day at Toyota Park in Chicago and the fans deserved better than this game on their day. The whole thing was rather a dull affair and not just because there was no goals scored, but because both sides played a hesitant and uninspired game. Chicago remained compact defensively which did not give Montreal much opportunity to create offensively. On the plus side it was nice for Montreal to end their losing streak on the road with the 0-0 tie. It wasn’t a win, but was their first point on the road since June 25.
Besides the play of Bush with his third shutout of the season, another highlight for Montreal was the play of defensive midfielder Calum Mallace. He has been one of the bright spots in this tough season for Montreal. Mallace along with Gorka Larrea have formed a solid pairing of holding midfielders.
Next up for Montreal is the New England Revolution at Saputo Stadium on Saturday, October 11.
-On-Field Officials: Referee – Mark Geiger
Assistants – Chris Strickland and Mark Cahen
-Shots on Goal: Montreal – 2
Chicago – 8
-Corners: Montreal – 1
Chicago – 7
-Man of the Match: Evan Bush
-Final Score: Montreal – 0
Chicago – 0