BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – Álvaro Fernández’s arrival in Chicago may have been a blessing for Patrick Nyarko.
For much of the season, the Ghanaian midfielder had been waiting for an opportunity to rest his ailing body while feeling confident in his team’s ability to replace him. That opportunity came during the last two weeks, when Fernández supplanted him in the starting lineup.
“In the midfield is our strongest spot on the team, and we’ve got a lot of depth,” Nyarko said in the aftermath of the Fire’s 2-1 win over New England on Saturday night. “Frank [Klopas, head coach] mentioned that we’re going to do a rotation to keep everyone fresh.”
During Saturday’s game, Nyarko filled in for Marco Pappa, who played 77 minutes for Guatemala on a friendly against Paraguay. The rest paid off for Nyarko, who played a hand in both Fire goals, setting up Chris Rolfe before he earned a penalty kick and assisting Sherjill MacDonald’s 25th-minute goal.
Nyarko once again tweaked his ailing back on Saturday, so it’s a strong possibility that Pappa will take back his starting spot when the Fire play D.C. United in midweek.
“It’s important to keep guys fresh,” Nyarko said. “Marco went to the national team, he got a rest tonight. We have a game Wednesday, and we have a guy fresh. It’s good, we’re in a strong position.”
The Fire’s depth extends to the entire offense, with forward Sherjill MacDonald becoming match fit and Rolfe finding his form.
Rolfe scored his third goal in the Fire’s last two games, and his play has helped give Klopas the ability to rest other creative attacking players.
“That’s the quality of the team,” MacDonald said. “You have the quality of the bench, and you can play with everybody. … It’s good to have a lot of guys with the same qualities.”
Klopas thinks bringing on a fresh Nyarko made a big difference on Saturday.
“He’s been a game-changer for us,” the Fire head coach said. “Even tonight, he was very aggressive when he had opportunities to attack. ... You can see how many times, when he gets into the final third, that he broke through.”
HIGHLIGHTS: Chicago 2, New England 1