Jack McInerney's first goal in an Impact uniform was the lone bright spot in an otherwise bland showing by Montreal on Saturday.
McInerney, acquired by the Impact last week, scored in his debut — a 1-1 draw to the Chicago Fire at Montreal's Olympic Stadium. Both teams are still winless six games into the MLS season.
Montreal (0-3-3) was slow and uninspired for long stretches. The Impact entered the game with an MLS-high 91 shot attempts, including 34 on target. But they were kept relatively quiet by Chicago (0-1-5), hitting the target only twice — both in the first half.
One of those was McInerney's first goal as an Impact, scored in the 42nd minute to give Montreal the 1-0 lead.
"Other than the goal, I didn't do well at all," said the 21-year-old McInerney, unhappy with his performance despite getting off the mark with his new club. "I didn't find the ball much out there. But it's only the first game. I've only been here a week."
After two good chances by the Fire's Jeff Larentowicz, who skied a shot from just outside the six-yard box in the 35th minute, and Patrick Nyarko, whose 37th minute blast was blocked by defender Eric Miller, the Impact took a surprise lead when Marco Di Vaio received a pass and found an onrushing McInerney, flicking the ball onto his path with his head.
The newest Impact player walked in all alone, slowed down on the breakaway, and rifled his shot past Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson.
McInerney, who was drafted fifth overall by Philadelphia in 2010, was acquired last week from the Union in exchange for Andrew Wenger. McInerney scored 12 goals in 31 MLS appearances last season for the Union, including twice against the Fire.
Impact coach Frank Klopas, playing against his former team for the first time since being let go in October 2013, says he is confident he can build on the chemistry between Di Vaio and McInerney, his two main strikers.
"There were moments when they were good," said Klopas, who played for the Fire in the late '90s and coached the squad for 81 games over three seasons between 2011 and 2013.
"For sure, it's going to get better as time goes on," he added. "We talked about moving the ball quickly, switching the point of attack, looking to combine with both strikers in order to break through."
The Impact moved the ball quickly at the end of the first half to break the deadlock, but they did little of it in the second half. Instead, they took three shots, all of them off target, weren't awarded any corner kicks, and accumulated 10 fouls.
The Chicago Fire, on the other hand, spent a lot of time in Montreal's half, dictating the run of play. They directed 17 shots at the net over the course of the game, controlled possession for most of it, and were awarded 10 corners.
And all the Chicago corners finally made the Impact pay in the 54th minute.
Off a corner, midfielder Larentowicz's header rang off the crossbar before falling to Mike Magee, who squared it across to Quincy Amarikwa in the 18-yard box for his third goal of the season.
"It's not obvious, it's not easy," said midfielder Patrice Bernier. "It's tough, actually. You're at home, you take the lead, you need to get points from that."
Despite the single point for the draw, the Impact are still stuck in the Eastern Conference basement with three points from six games. They've now drawn three straight after opening their season with three losses.
"Let's focus on the positive: we haven't been losing those games," said Bernier, who came on as a substitute at halftime. "It's a long season. I prefer starting a season slowly and ending it with a bang rather than starting strong and disappearing by the end of it.
"Teams are better than us, and we deserve the results we're getting. We need to get out of this rut. Other teams won't help us out of this. It's up to us."
The Impact look to turn the tide against conference-rivals Sporting Kansas City in their next game, on April 19.