On Sunday, the Chicago Fire and Montreal Impact played out a drab draw in front of a sparse crowd at a cold Toyota Park. Really, the fans couldn't be blamed for staying away. The draw eliminates the Fire from playoff contention, and on the basis of their MLS-record 18th draw, it is no less than they deserve.
As the two bottom teams in the Eastern Conference prepared to take each other on, they knew the stakes. Dropped points for Chicago coupled with results elsewhere would mean their elimination from playoff contention. Meanwhile, Montreal still entertained hopes of leapfrogging Chicago and not finishing in tenth in the East.
As a wave of cold weather swathed across the Midwest, even the famously partisan fans in Section 8 were looking to stay away. While the announced attendance was nearly 18,000 it looked far fewer on the broadcast.
The first chance of the game came early for Chicago as striker Quincy Amarikwa came close to breaking the deadlock. A deep cross from defender Lovel Palmer found Amarikwa on the back post, but it looked as if it was behind the striker. Amarikwa managed to get on the end of the cross and headed it high back towards the far post. For a moment it looked as if keeper Evan Bush was beaten, but he did well to keep it out.
Chicago nearly found the opener in the 18th minute after some good work from forward Florent Sinama-Pongolle. The Frenchman collected an over hit pass and sent in a great cross right on the head of Patrick Nyarko, whose costless header sailed well wide.
The game nearly got an undeserved goal of the highest quality in the 38th minute from Montreal. An over hit cross to the back post was knocked back into the middle where striker Jack McInerney was waiting and alert. The American executed a perfect bicycle kick, for what should have been a great goal. Unfortunately, fellow forward Justin Mapp had strayed offside before heading back across goal. On second viewing, Mapp looked offside and McInerney can feel genuinely aggrieved at having that top class goal taken away.
The poor finishing school continued to be taught by the Fire throughout the match, as this match's lesson was on how to take a 3-0 win and turn it into a 0-0 draw. Sinama-Pongolle taught the next class in the 42nd minute, as his shot into a seemingly empty was somehow saved by Bush. A cross had been floated for Amarikwa on the back post, and his header back across goal found Sinama-Pongolle all alone. Alas, the Frenchman could not finish and Bush got back across his line to save well.
Chicago's next missed opportunity came in the 67th minute off a corner. Young Harry Shipp put a great out-swinging ball into the box which Palmer attacked. His powerful header should have found the back of the net but ended up yards wide, yet another chance gone begging.
Johnson was not called on to make a save worthy of note until the 80th minute when Callum Malace nearly opened the scoring. Substitute Felipe Martins fizzed in a ball to Malace, who turned in the box and created space for himself really nicely before firing right at the near post. Johnson did very well to keep the ball out.
Bush would make one more fantastic save before the match was out. Matthew Fondy made a fantastic slaloming run down the left wing, working his way into the box. The forward nearly lost the ball on several occasions, but eventually had a chance from the edge of the six yard box to beat the keeper. He instead slid a pass to defender Gonzalo Segares who tried to chip the ball into the top corner but was tipped away by Bush.
It was a fitting result for both teams, and one which characterized their seasons. Their respective fans can only hope both sides strengthen in the upcoming transfer window and are ready and revamped for a playoff run in 2015.