MONTREAL – A record crowd of 58,912 packed Olympic Stadium to cheer on the Montreal Impact in an entertaining 1-1 draw with the Chicago Fire on Saturday, setting a new attendance record for professional soccer in Canada.
But in the end, it was a happy trip home for the handful of Fire fans that had made the trip to La Belle Province, as their team rallied from a goal down thanks to a 71st-minute equalizer from Dominic Oduro.
Impact captain Davy Arnaud wrote his name in the history books in the 56th minute as he headed a Sanna Nyassi cross into the upper right corner of Fire goalkeeper Paolo Tornaghi's net. But the lead didn't stand as Oduro got the equalizer a quarter-hour later a great assist from Sebastián Grazzini.
The massive crowd seemingly got to Impact midfielder and Montreal native Patrice Bernier early on, as he committed a bad turnover in the very first minute. Fire forward Patrick Nyarko, though, was unable to convert.
As the Impact were overrun in midfield in the early goings, Chicago did well to win the ball back and frequently kept Montreal right back Jeb Brovsky busy. Long diagonal balls to Chicago’s left flank often found a target in Nyarko, but Montreal swiftly gained their confidence and won the majority of possession – and committed the most fouls.
The Impact’s first true chance came in the 18th minute, as Felipe centered for Justin Braun, who was denied by Tornaghi.
The second half began with all the momentum from the home team, culminating with Arnaud's strike. But Chicago pushed for an equalizer immediately, with a good spell of possession leading up to Oduro's goal led by Grazzini expertly running the tip of Chicago's midfield diamond.
Montreal head coach Jesse Marsch sent forwards Andrew Wenger, Bernardo Corradi and Lamar Neagle on in an attempt to win all three points, and Neagle tried his best to win a penalty in the 84th minute, but was booked for simulation. The Impact kept on attacking in the hope that a record crowd could be sent home happy, and left back Josh Gardner nearly pulled off a miracle goal with a stunning laser in extra time that barely ricocheted off the corner of the goalpost. But it wasn't to be.
The Impact picked up their first point of the season before heading back on the road to face Columbus on March 24. The Fire, meanwhile bagged a point in their 2012 regular-season opener. They next host Philadelphia, also on March 24.