The Fire has to feel reasonably satisfied with a point on the road given the circumstances of the match but they can't be too happy with allowing Montreal to control long stretches of possession throughout the middle of the game. The visitors held their ground and were slightly better through the first 20 minutes but Jesse Marsch's defensive tactics limited Fire attackers to any clear chances on goal. Marsch dropped his backline much deeper than they played in the previous match at Vancouver and moved Patrice Bernier closer to the back four in order to neutralize the speed of Patrick Nyarko and Dominic Oduro on the Fire's counter attack.
Referee Kevin Stott allowed the Impact to play physically with Sebastian Grazzini, which limited his ability to get free in the middle and spray the ball out to the front runners. The Impact were most successful moving the ball forward on the outside against the Fire's midfield prompting Frank Klopas to drop Nyarko back further on the pitch to start the second half. The strategy initially didn't work all that well as Montreal took the lead in the 56th minute after Felipe evaded Pavel Pardo to feed Sanna Nyassi to the left of the Chicago goal. Nyassi was afforded too much time to deliver a cross to a wide open Davy Arnaud for the home club's first ever MLS tally.
The Fire found the equalizer 15 minutes later when Grazzini floated a ball into the box that found the foot of Oduro for the Ghanian's first goal of the season. After a bit of back and forth that saw the Impact collect the better of the scoring chances the home crowd was nearly sent home in a frenzy as Josh Gardner's laser beam from distance struck the far post and bounced away to an offside Bernado Corradi.
The Fire can't be too disappointed to pick up a point on the road but there are a few issues that need to be ironed out before the home opener against Philadelphia next Saturday.
GK - Paolo Tornaghi (7) - An impressive debut for the Italian 'keeper allowed the Fire to manage a draw. A fantastic outstretched save in the 18th kept Justin Braun off the scoresheet and another solid stop late on Nyassi were the best of five total saves. Tried to catch the Impact on the counter with several long distances boots that failed to connect with Oduro but otherwise showed why the club was so impressed with him during pre-season.
D - Dan Gargan (6) - Very good early while aiding the attack and drawing fouls in dangerous areas. May have been caught too far upfield in the 18th allowing Gardner to find Braun on the shot Tornaghi parried away.
D - Jalil Anibaba (5) - Caught a bit out of position on the Arnaud goal but came up with a fine stop on a late cross in the first half halting a Montreal attack. Anibaba has tremendous upside but he will probably find himself watching the action as soon as Arne Friedrich is fit and ready to play. Learning from the German World Cup veteran will serve him well in the long haul. Did manage to get a head on a ball from a set piece sending the ball wide of goal in the 16th.
D - Cory Gibbs (6) - Very good in anchoring the back line, particularly in the first half when the Fire were playing their best. Should form a solid veteran partnership with Friedrich.
D - Gonzalo Segares (5) - Fair game from the veteran left back but allowed way too much space to Nyassi in the 56th minute resulting in the Montreal score. After a 64th minute pass that resulted in a good chance, Segares stayed down on the turf and was replaced by Jumper in the 68th.
M - Pavel Pardo (5) - Quiet game for Pardo who usually initiates the attack out of the back with balls over the top to either Oduro or Nyarko. Montreal's deep back line took that away and Felipe managed to escape him en route to finding Nyassi before the eventual Arnaud score. A free kick attempt in second half stoppage time was well struck but just wide of the upper corner.
M - Logan Pause (5) - Did well to break up passes and find team mates moving forward in the attack while the Fire were playing well in the first 20 minutes. The Fire can be controlled on the flanks when Pappa is not playing well since there is little threat of Pause moving forward himself.
M - Sebastian Grazzini (6) - Montreal took a physical approach to defending Grazzini, effectively taking the Fire out of their comfort zone offensively. Referee Kevin Stott allowed the rough play and Grazzini seemed a bit frustrated late in the first half. He showed why he is vitally important to the club's success by setting up Oduro for the game tying score. Replaced in the 79th minute with what Klopas described as cramps.
M - Marco Pappa (4) - One of the issues that remained unresolved at the end of last season was the up and down play of Pappa. The talented winger still hasn't quite figured out how to find his game with Grazzini on the pitch. He was hesitant with the ball on numerous occasions and lost possession at other times while attempting to dribble past more than one defender. His best moment came in the 53rd minute when his long distance attempt at goal sailed high over the net. Replaced by Puppo in the 62nd minute.
F - Patrick Nyarko (5) - There were good signs from Nyarko in terms of thinking more "selfishly" as a striker. Good to see him take several attempts at goal although none found the frame. His work rate is always high and he was pushed back behind Oduro in the second half in order to aid the midfielders defensively. Started the play that led to the Fire's score by hitting Grazzini with an accurate pass on the run.
F - Dominic Oduro (6) - Found the going difficult with Montreal defenders dropping back in numbers to contend with his pace but still managed to find a way to score as most good strikers do. He may yet prove that 2011 was not a fluke. A fine bit of skill in the 63rd also resulted in another scoring opportunity that was deflected over the end line for a corner kick.
F - Federico Puppo (6) - Provided a bit of a spark after entering the match for Pappa in the 62nd. Dangerous in the box in the 64th before Ricketts stopped the play and created a good scoring chance by drawing a foul with a fantastic 35 yard run resulting in Pardo's free kick attempt.
D - Hunter Jumper (5) - Entered the match for Segares in the 68th minute and had some good moments but slipped on the turf in the 87th allowing Nyassi to get a clear shot at Tornaghi's goal.
M - Daniel Paladini (5) - Came on for Grazzini in the 79th. Was likely the second option for the free kick attempt in stoppage time.
C - Frank Klopas (5) - A draw on the road in a hostile environment against a team riding a huge emotional high is not a bad result. Marsch used the tactics that most MLS teams will continue to use in order to slow down the Fire's attack. The insertion of Puppo worked well but Klopas will have a bit of tinkering to do in order to keep opposing defenses honest thereby allowing Nyarko and Oduro more room to operate.
Peter Nowak and the Philadelphia Union at Toyota Park next Saturday.