Chicago Fire forwards Patrick Nyarko and Dominic Oduro don’t make up a typical starting forward tandem by any means.
Both are blazing fast, but neither is a traditional target forward. Nyarko would rather slide a pinpoint pass to a teammate in the box rather than go for goal, and Oduro hadn’t scored more than five goals in a season before last year’s 12-goal outburst.
But in their short time together up top together, the Ghanaian duo has gotten the job done – helping lead the Fire to a 7-2-1 finish last year after a late-season lineup shuffle.
“It’s a great combination,” Oduro said. “I know he plays on the wing sometimes, but I’d love to have him as a forward all the time. With me and him up front, there’s more of a threat.”
The Ghanaian duo combined yet again in the Fire’s final preseason game of the season, a 3-1 win over the Minnesota Stars, when Oduro collected a mishit goal kick and completed a give-and-go with Nyarko before slotting home an open shot.
Nyarko thinks the similarity between the two players is what makes the tandem special.
“It helps, because as a quick player, myself, I know where I need to play the ball,” Nyarko told MLSsoccer.com.
Oduro and Nyarko are a prime example of the difference between the 2011 and 2012 versions of the Fire. The chemistry on this year’s team is much better than it was last season, when new names were scattered across the team sheet. This year, the entire starting lineup is back.
As last season went along, the Ghanaians became increasingly comfortable with each other, talking exclusively in their native language of Twi, going out to lunch together regularly at Ghanaian restaurants and regularly discussing what adjustments they needed to make in their play.
“We carpool all the time, we have lunch together all the time,” Oduro said, “so we’re always communicating what to do with our runs.”
Both were called into the Ghanaian national team’s exhibition game against Chile on March 1 after some late holdouts and injuries caused a roster shuffle. They didn’t play at the same time, but both saw the field in the 1-1 tie.
“It was very special,” Nyarko said. “The call came very late, and it was very convenient to know someone in there… I just couldn’t believe it until I was on the field.”
Since Brian McBride’s retirement in 2010, speculation about acquiring a target forward has swirled around the Fire.
But Oduro and Nyarko think the current forward combination is working just fine.
“We always have great chemistry on the field,” Oduro told MLSsoccer.com. “He knows my strengths. The fact that we know each other’s strengths helps us and gives us an advantage.”