BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – Coming off the team’s bye week earlier this month, Fire head coach Frank Klopas said he and his staff used the time off to experiment with different things up top.
With only six goals in the team’s previous eight matches, it seemed a smart roll of the dice to see what differences could be made in the attack and that was born out with Patrick Nyarko being paired up top with Chris Rolfe in Saturday’s game against Philadelphia.
Early speculation thought that Sherjill MacDonald’s diagnosis with strep throat on Friday might have forced the move but Klopas shot that down on Tuesday.
“Mac was sick but regardless I was going to play with Patrick and Rolfe even if he wasn’t sick,” Klopas said following training.
“We had a two week break that we looked at different ways and it’s unfortunate that Mac got sick – it would have given us another option off the bench and Maicon and his knee, he wasn’t at his best from a fitness standpoint.
“I was going to play with Rolfe and Patrick regardless.”
The move seemed like it would pay dividends as Rolfe and Nyarko combined well and created many chances with the Ghanaian even hitting the post just after halftime.
While many chances were created, they all went begging as the Fire lost 1-0 to Philadelphia.
Still, Rolfe endorsed keeping Nyarko up top following the game and with MacDonald still recovering from strep throat and Maicon Santos seemingly out for the time being with a shoulder injury, it seems like the pairing would continue.
“Right now we’re not getting it done up there as far as scoring,” said Klopas. “We’re creating chances and it’s not like we’re putting guys up there that haven’t played. I’m not putting Austin Berry up there. Patrick has done it before. When Grazzini was here, I put him up top with Dominic [Oduro]."
The instance Klopas points to began with Nyarko's move forward in August 2011, a shift that in part helped the team finish with a 7-2-1 record and make a run to that year's Open Cup final.
"He’s played there and [the hope is] we can free him up a little bit more where his responsibilities are a little bit less tracking back and where he can get the ball in the final third, same with Chris.
“I think they’re both dynamic guys that can create, beat guys off the dribble and combine well."