Record crowd watches Impact tie 1-1 in home MLS debut
Published Saturday, March 17, 2012 1:24PM EDT
MONTREAL - The Olympic Stadium came back to life for the Montreal Impact's first-ever home soccer game in Major League Soccer, which they tied 1-1 against the Chicago Fire.
After a scoreless first half, Captain Davy Arnaud scored the first-ever Montreal Impact MLS goal in the 56th minute, off a header on a pass from Sanna Nyassi.
Impact Midfielder Felipe slipped a pass to the right wing that Sanna Nyassi lofted to the edge of the box for Arnaud to head the ball over goalkeeper Paolo Tornaghi and into the net. Impact players mobbed their captain in a corner of the pitch.
A collective groan went up from the seats in the 71st minute as striker Dominic Oduro equalized for the Fire (1-0-0), who played their season opener.
Chicago struck back when Patrick Nyarko fed a pass to Sebastien Grazzini, who slipped the ball through that the onrushing Oduro tipped past Donovan Ricketts.
Montreal's last chance came in injury time as Josh Garner hit a post with a long shot from the left side.
The Impact broke the record attendance for a pro soccer match in Montreal of 58,542 set in 1981 by the defunct Montreal Manic for a playoff match, but fell short of the Canadian pro record of 60,342 by the Vancouver Whitecaps in 1983.
Montreal went on the attack from the outset, with Chicago preferring to play for counterattacks, and got the first good chance when Justin Braun's close-range shot was tipped over the bar by Tornaghi in the 18th minute.
A false alarm in the 35th minute saw Braun put in Nyassi's pass on a tic-tac-toe play in the Chicago area, but he was correctly ruled offside.
The Impact made no changes to their starting 11, but a cheer went up when newly acquired Italian striker Bernardo Corradi replaced Braun in the 77th minute. He set up Felipe for a chance, but the Brazilian midfielder was tripped up before he could shoot.
Yellow cards were shown to Chicago's Grazzini in the 42nd and Pavel Pardo in the 87th and Montreal's Nyassi in the 89th.
Many fans were decked out in Impact jerseys, scarves and other assorted paraphernalia, suggesting that the team had done some brisk business not only at the turnstiles.
Many seats remained empty until just a few minutes before game-time, presumably because it took some time to process each fan through the gates, but by kick-off time few of the contoured plastic yellow seats were seen unoccupied.
Many made the trek to the historic match from afar.
"It was important for me to be here and be there early," said Dave Mitchell, who came from from Gananoque, halfway between Montreal and Kingston, Ontario.
"It's the history that drew me here," he adds. "And it is now closer for me to come to Montreal than to go to Toronto to see an MLS match," said Mitchell, who vowed to also attend games at Saputo Stadium later this season.
"You've got to support your team," said Alain Cloutier who came from St-Jean-sur-Richelieu. "They're playing now in Major League Soccer, it's not a second or third division league," he said.
The fans were largely clad in blue and were expected to be practicing their five-or-so terrace chants, which were are easy to learn, as they mostly involved the words "allez" and "Montreal."
The fans also practiced the custom of screaming the last names of the starting 11 when they introduced.
The highest-attended soccer game in Montreal history too place during the Montreal Olympics of 1976 when 71,617 watched East Germany beat Poland in the soccer finals. That record remains intact.
The Impact will play their first five home games indoor at the Olympic Stadium before switching over to the renovated Saputo Stadium in June.
With files from The Canadian Press