Under the circumstances, a 1-1 tie was a fitting result for the Montreal Impact in their first game back at Saputo Stadium.
A snow and ice storm late in the week forced the game to be moved from Saturday to Sunday afternoon.
And then it took the Impact until the second half to find their legs in a 1-1 MLS draw with the Columbus Crew.
Montreal’s Marco Di Vaio and the Crew’s Domenic Oduro, each with his third of the season, traded goals four minutes apart in the second half.
The Impact looked ready to win when Sanna Nyassi missed a glorious chance when he chipped one over the bar from inside the penalty area in the final minute.
“In the second half we started figuring out a little more,” said midfielder Patrice Bernier. “We created a lot more chances.
“I think we could have got a second goal. It’s tough, but at least we showed more energy and we dictated play.”
The Impact (4-1-1) remain unbeaten at home (2-0-1) while Columbus (2-1-3) has not lost in four straight.
It was a difficult day all around for the Impact, who had not played in two weeks and then were forced to cool their heels an extra day due to the snow.
An overnight effort to clear the white stuff off the grass included team president Joey Saputo and made the pitch at least playable, even if it was a little hard and brown. The sunny 7 C temperature at kickoff helped too.
Montreal also had assistant Mauro Biello acting as head coach. Marco Schallibaum was banished from the sidelines with a one-game suspension for being ejected from a 2-0 loss in Kansas City two weeks ago.
And another, tougher setback awaited as veteran Matteo Ferrari came up with a calf injury in the pre-game warmup, making 20-year-old Karl Ouimette a starter in the central defence. Happily for Montreal, it was alongside veteran Alesandro Nesta, who returned from a groin injury.
“It’s not easy for a player to come in at the last minute, but Karl did well,” said Biello. “I think we did enough to win the game.
“They had one chance in the second half. We created more chances. We’ll take the point. We’d love to have three, but we’ll build off this game.”
The Impact were out of synch through most of the opening 45 minutes and were lucky to go into the intermission in a scoreless draw.
They nearly conceded a goal as Federico Higuain was allowed to run through a wide gap and go in alone in the 39th minute. Troy Perkins made a spectacular save on the Crew captain’s attempt to chip the ball.
Three minutes earlier, an alert Perkins tipped a Ben Speas blast over the bar.
Montreal managed only weak shots from Felipe Martins and Justin Mapp in the first half.
They were much more lively after the break and looked to have scored when Andres Romero fed Di Vaio for a shot inside the left post. But the linesman raised the off-side flag in a very close call.
Only five minutes later, the Italian veteran got one that counted. He jumped on a loose ball after substitute Sanna Nyassi mishandled a pass from Mapp and drove a low shot inside the post in the 68th minute.
The party mood among the 16,584 in the seats was stilled in the 72nd when Oduro pulled down a pass in front of Hassoun Camara and neatly fired it inside the far post.
“It was an amazing goal,” said Oduro. “It’s one of the goals I’ll probably cherish in my MLS life.
“I was happy for my teammates. We played well and they gave me an opportunity to bend a goal like that. I’ll try to keep my confidence up and maybe score more goals like that.”
The Impact controlled most of the play at the end but couldn’t connect for the game-winner.
“We wanted to be a bit more dangerous and you saw us fly forward a little more, but we just didn’t get that killer goal,” said fullback Jeb Brovsky.
In the second half, Biello sent in substitutes Nyassi, Andrew Wenger and rookie defender Maxim Tissot, who saw his first MLS action, if only for two minutes plus injury time.
The field should be in better shape for Montreal’s next home game, which isn’t for another two weeks when the Impact takes on the Chicago Fire on April 27.
“It was a bumpy field, but you expect that with the weather,” said Bernier. “It’ll get better. We had to adjust to it, but at least we were able to play.”
Added captain Davy Arnaud: “It was great considering how much snow was on it. At the end of the day, it’s not a loss. We pick up a point and keep moving in the right direction.”
Notes: Montreal’s next game is April 24 in Toronto, to start the Canadian Championship competition . . . The Impact played their first two home games indoors at Olympic Stadium, posting wins over Toronto and New York . . . Former Impact defender Tyson Wahl started at left back for Columbus.