So this season finally decided to show up. After being off in week one the wait finally ended this past Saturday in Montreal. With the season finally here we get to see our relatively unchanged team in action for the first time.
This was always going to be an odd game. First off the surface was down right atrocious. The ball would bounce like a basketball when it hit the ground. Secondly this is not Montreal's normal home ground. There supporters made an excellent effort with so many new fans there but the atmosphere was a bit off for so many people.
The game itself was a stiff fighting affair. Montreal, like so many other MLS expansion franchises, compensates for their overall lack of talent with very physical play. Since this being their home opener a lot of that physical play was allowed. This of course should surprise no one. This is a time honored tradition in these parts and should be more than expected.
The Fire had a bit of thrust initially. The first minute of the game saw Patrick Nyarko push a shot just wide. The Impact held their ground for much of the first half. Tactically they kept their back line deep to neutralize the speed of Oduro and Nyarko. Due to this the Fire had little thrust forward. Normally you'd think a bit of width would help this situation. Unfortunately that just wasn't there.
Marco Pappa flipped from the left to the right during the first half. His inability to stay wide was an issue in the first half. Marco continued to drift into the middle instead of providing the necessary width for some service into the box. Dan Gargan attempted to provide as much wide support as he could. Due to him pushing up the field so far he was caught out of position several times.
The goal given up was the result of more than a few mistakes. First off the midfield was all out of position. Dan Gargan headed the ball back into the middle of the field to a spot where, normally, a Fire defender would be located. There was not a defender there. Pavel Pardo missed a tackle (seriously weird seeing that happen) allowing a free run. Jalil Anibaba did not mark the correct man allowing the free header attempt on goal. Really a comedy of unfortunate errors. This is going to have to be tightened up in the next few weeks. The presence of Arne Friedrich should help with that.
Earlier in the second half the Fire made another tactical adjustment. Marco Pappa was pushed into the second forward role while Nyarko sliped back into the midfield. Can't say that it helped all that much. After a tepid response to the goal Marco eats the early sub for Federico Puppo. Puppo was quite the catalyst on this night. His energy was appeared infectious. He forced the defense to deal with his well timed runs which helped create space behind him. Puppo, unlike Oduro, doesn't need to rely on his speed to create chances. He appears very comfortable with physical play. After the Puppo injection Nyarko started to look comfortable and was able to do some work out on the right wing. The defense stabilized a bit. Grazzini got more space to work with. All of this energy helped lead to an excellent Dom Oduro goal from a perfectly waited Grazzini pass.
Quick word about Grazzini. I thought he played well in this game. Was tracking back for the ball and always continuously showing to to receive the ball. He did put some defensive effort in, in particular there were a few nice track backs to help disposes a player (Grazzini received a yellow card tonight). Also his perfect pass created the goal scoring opportunity. I had no issue with subbing him out for Paladini around the 80th minute. The game was tied. At this point getting a point on the road was the right decision. No reason not to have one of your bulldog midfielders not in the game.
A fairly well coached game by Klopas. All his subs were well taken. Hunter Jumper was forced to enter the game due to an injury suffered by Gonzalo Segares after a pretty awful tackle. Jumper was fairly solid except for the one moment he slipped in the box almost leading to another goal. Even with that one misstep Jumper has contributed more to the Fire in one game than Pari Pantazopolous did all last season. Puppo getting almost 30 minutes to do something was good to see. The decision to start Paolo Tornaghi in goal was a slight gamble that worked perfectly. One wouldn't have begrudged Frank if he decided to go with the more experienced Jay Nolly in goal. The young Italian keeper played well. Make no doubt about it Sean Johnson is going to have to fight for his spot at some point this season.
Personally I was happy with the result. Going forward some changes are needed in the starting lineup. Don't know how much longer Marco Pappa should hang onto his starting spot. I would like to see Puppo get the start this Saturday with Nyarko sliding back into the midfield and Pappa on the bench. You also have the option of utilizing Robayo instead of Pappa and leaving Puppo on the bench. Either way its nice to have options for a change.