After dealing with sagging defenses all last season, Chicago Fire forward Dominic Oduro figured he’d have to deal with special treatment during Saturday’s season-opening 1-1 tie in Montreal.
But early on, the Fire simply weren’t able to create offense in front of 58,912 fans at Olympic Stadium, as the Impact defense sat back so the lightning-quick Oduro wouldn’t blow by them.
Not that the Ghanaian speedster was at all surprised.
“I knew they were going to sit back,” he said. “We expect that. They knew our speed, they knew our counterattack. We weren’t happy [early on], but we knew if we just stepped it up a little bit, we’d be OK.”
Still, on the flip side of things, the Fire were also content to sit back and contain the energized home team. That is, until Davy Arnaud put the Impact in front in the 56th minute.
Shortly after, coach Frank Klopas put forward Federico Puppo in the game, Chicago began pressing and the momentum gradually shifted.
HIGHLIGHTS: Montreal 1, Chicago 1
With the Uruguayan striker on the field, the Fire began creating chances. And from those chances came the goal that gave Klopas’ side a valuable point.
In the 71st minute, Sebastián Grazzini found space between the Montreal midfield and backline and picked out Oduro, who stretched out to redirect a tantalizing chip past Donovan Ricketts, quieting the record-breaking crowd in Quebec.
In the end, the Fire had just three shots on target, but they had a point to cherish, a result that began to take shape once the lively Puppo entered the match.
“He brought more energy into the game,” Oduro said of the Uruguayan. “We needed that.”
And even though it didn’t produce a goal against the Impact, Oduro still has confidence that his combination with Patrick Nyarko will work just like it did at the end of last year, when Oduro scored seven goals in his final 13 games of the season.
The duo’s connection when it comes to heritage and language has been well documented, but their understanding on the field isn’t far behind. And despite the Impact’s efforts to disrupt that connection, Oduro didn’t waver when asked if it could reap the same rewards in 2011 if Chicago stick with what they know.
“It will work, it worked last year,” he said. “We still had defenders sitting back. We believe on our team, we believe in our system. No matter what adjustment teams make, we’re still going to stick to our plan.”
And although that plan may not have included settling for a point, against a record-breaking opposing crowd, Oduro said the Fire couldn’t be disappointed with a tie.
“We were able to stay disciplined,” Oduro said. “At the end of the day, that was our main goal, to stay disciplined and to play as a team.”