Last week I went through the Positional Breakdown of the goalkeepers, defenders and midfielders in Fire training camp. Today I close out the series with a look at the guys up top.
Signed (5): Orr Barouch, Kheli Dube, Kellen Gulley, Dominic Oduro, Federico Puppo
Tweener (1): Patrick Nyarko
Draftees (1): Lucky Mkosana
The question on many a Fire fan’s minds going into 2012 is whether striker Dominic Oduro can replicate the career campaign he had last season. Acquired via trade from Houston one game into 2011, Oduro took a few matches to settle, even playing at times on the wing, but eventually the speedy attacker who had never tallied more than five in a season, went on to bag 12 goals. He also broke the club’s long-lasting distinction of not having a double-digit goal scorer since Damani Ralph tallied 11 in 2004.
Fire supporters should feel comforted by the fact that Oduro has continued his scoring pace thus far in preseason, bagging three goals in 105 minutes across the team’s first three matches.
Frank Klopas found the most success up top last season when he paired Oduro with fellow Ghanaian Patrick Nyarko beginning in August, with the partnership going on to provide what was likely the quickest forward tandem in the league during 2011.
Despite that, Nyarko has found himself pushing back, playing on both the right and left wings during each of the first three preseason matches. Striker Orr Barouch paired with Oduro up top to start the team’s 0-0 draw with DC United on January 29 but offseason signing Federico Puppo has since been Oduro’s partner in last Wednesday’s 3-0 victory against FGCU and Saturday’s 3-1 win over Real España.
Puppo (pictured right) has had moments in both matches, most notably setting up the first goal in the win over FGCU, and the duo has shown the ability to link up not only with each other but the attacking
support behind them with Nyarko, Sebastian Grazzini and Marco Pappa. It appears the Ghanian-Uruguayan partnership is currently the first choice for Klopas up top but there are other options behind them.
While Barouch and Oduro didn’t produce a goal in the team’s initial game, the Israeli youth international has tallied two goals in the past two matches, tapping in a well placed corner kick from Corben Bone vs. Florida Gulf Coast and coolly finishing a late centering pass from Victor Pineda late in the win over España. Barouch appears to have gained confidence coming off a successful first MLS season in which he appeared in 29 of the team’s 34 regular season matches, almost exclusively in a super-sub role.
At 6-2, Barouch’s (pictured right) size makes him the team’s first option as a target striker and he could very well see more time in matches against teams that bring a more physical presence this season.
Acquired via December’s MLS Re-Entry Draft, forward Kheli Dube brings a hardworking veteran presence to the attack as he enters his fifth MLS season. The Zimbabwean has recovered from the whiplash suffered in a car accident last year near Gilette Stadium that held him out of all but five matches in 2011.
Dube has looked good in training and has shown the penchant throughout his career to pop up in the right place at the right time. He’s combined best with fellow countryman and the team’s second MLS SuperDraft selection Lucky Mkosana in the time the two shared on the field in the draw against D.C. United and victory over FGCU.
The only unsigned forward in camp, Mkosana has shown his craftiness, providing one of the team’s best opportunities off a setup from Dube in the scoreless draw vs. D.C. The product of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe has less time to impress during preseason as he filters in and out of camp to complete his degree at Dartmouth College next month. Mkosana departed Ave Maria following the DC game and will rejoin camp on Friday, February 10 in Oxnard, Calif.
Eligible for first team play having completed his Homegrown requirements at the end of 2011, 17-year-old Kellen Gulley will continue to get matches with the Academy and in reserve games as he builds towards a potential MLS debut in 2012.