Memorable Moments: First Kick in Montreal
With few days left in the year, we here at Chicago-Fire.com thought it appropriate to take a look back on 10 of the Most Memorable of what turned out to be a very successful year.
As it would be difficult to rank all the instances that pulled together a fantastic 15th year, we'll be listing them chronologically over the next two weeks. Some are club-wide and as the Team Writer, others are of a more personal nature but rest assured that all were special.
On Day 1, I recapped the club’s jersey launch with Quaker that occurred back in Mid-January. Today, I look back on one of those more personal moments – the experience of attending the 2012 season opener with nearly 60,000 others at Olympic Stadium in Montreal
#2 – Montreal Impact vs. Chicago Fire – March 17
Being a fan at as many away games as I could was a goal I set for myself this season this time last year. In all, I was able to stand with Fire supporters at six away regular season matches in 2012 and I’m pretty sure the tone for that was set with this game.
I say that remembering that I went to Montreal still slightly bitter the league had pitted the Fire against a team playing either their first-ever home game in a new stadium or in Montreal’s case, in MLS, for the fourth time in three seasons.
Still, the day before the game I trekked to northeast Canada with some of the club’s most well-traveled fans -- grizzled veterans of Fire away support. Arriving for the first time in Quebec, I made it in time to meet up at the team hotel just prior to their departure for training at Stade Olimpique.
Bumping into Frank Klopas in the lobby, I told him of the numbers in the traveling party and without hesitation he said, “Invite them to training.”
After making a quick phone call, we eventually arrived to the stadium to find nearly 30 Fire supporters who had already made it into the ground and stood just on the other side of the field boards.
While the group basked in the glow of such an intimate experience with their beloved team, they also took in the cavernous relic of a stadium that played host to the 1976 Montreal Summer Games.
Following training, I took in a taste of the famous Montreal nightlife, ending up at a Brazilian joint with a sandbox in the back, appropriately named “Copacabana”. With a great French Canadian Brazilian experience in my back pocket (all on St. Patrick’s Day weekend), I called it a night as an early afternoon kickoff beckoned the next day.
Clad in Fire gear and Chicago flags, a large number of the supporters rode the Metro to the stadium three hours prior to the game. On the way, we encountered a number of Impact fans that were more than courteous in welcoming us to their city for such a big game.
Before long, the stadium began to fill with blue and white, making the 70 or so traveling Fire fans a mere speck of red up in the northeast corner of the stadium.
Always great with acknowledging the contributions of supporters, the entire team came to the corner immediately after making their way from the tunnel. Shortly after, assistant coach Leo Percovich made Olympic Stadium feel like home, displaying a Fire and City of Chicago flag in the team’s end of the field for warm ups – an exercise carried out for every Fire game, home or away, in 2012.
Projections from many fans called for the Fire to open the 2012 season with a win against the expansion side but knowing the daunting task of taking three points in front of 58,000+ cheering against your team, a draw was always acceptable in my book.
Save a couple of chances from Patrick Nyarko, the first half served to be relatively uneventful. The large crowd didn’t seem nearly as loud as the numbers would make you think and so at the break, talk of taking three points was alive throughout the away supporters section.
Eleven minutes later though, the Montreal partisans erupted with pure emotion as Sanna Nyassi’s cross from the right was glanced past Paolo Tornaghi and inside the back post by Impact captain Davy Arnaud, sending a sinking feeling through my stomach.
That feeling grew deeper when an injury to left back Gonzalo Segares in the 68th minute forced Klopas to insert rookie Hunter Jumper into the match, making his professional debut in front of the 58,912 in attendance.
The Fire settled down and found the equalizer in the 71st minute. Jumper played a ball up the left for Nyarko who found Sebastian Grazzini at the top of the box. The Argentine took one touch with his right before a second with his left flicked the ball to the six where an outstretched Dominic Oduro eased it past Donovan Ricketts.
Though moments were tense, things looked good for a 1-1 draw deep into stoppage time until Impact defender Josh Gardner ripped a 30-yard bullet off the cross bar before rebound attempts were thwarted with an offside call, effectively ending the match.
Just as they had when they entered the field, all Fire players in attendance saluted the support in the northeast corner. Though it had often felt like our attempts to cheer the team had been drowned out, the post-game applause from field level was a welcome acknowledgement.
After a nice afternoon nap and recovery of voice, a much larger Fire fan contingent took a trip back to the Copacabana and eventually made it seem like a Section 8 club house in Montreal as the group celebrated a well-earned point in a difficult atmosphere.
The final takeaway was that Montreal is tops when it comes to MLS away cities, with some even saying they were sad to only play one away game in Quebec during the season.
Whenever the 2013 MLS calendar comes out, join me and marking the Montreal away day...
WATCH: Fire 1, Impact 1 (3-17-2012)