With the score tied 1-1 in Wednesday’s U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal at Atlanta, Fire newcomer Matt Fondy was thrown in the deep end and asked to swim as he entered the match for Quincy Amarikwa in the 63rd minute.
Playing a third game in seven days and needing to balance minutes ahead of Saturday’s visit to New England, Fire head coach Frank Yallop handed the 24-year-old the tough task of playing as a lone striker, with Mike Magee having been sent off after the first half hour.
“It’s always tough to come to a new team in the middle of the season,” Fondy told Chicago-Fire.com this week. “All the guys have their chemistry and you just want to be able to break in and help them win.”
While his first touch after coming on wasn’t great, perhaps it got the jitters out.
Eighteen minutes later, the 24-year-old got on to a ball from Harry Shipp at the top of the box and moved past a defender before being chopped down in the 81st minute.
Captain Jeff Larentowicz stepped up and placed the spot kick down the middle clinching a memorable start for Fondy’s Fire tenure.
“It felt great, especially in a pressure situation, to help the team win,” he said. “I wanted to get on, work hard and hopefully get a goal for the team. I helped get a goal so good enough.”
(Matt Fondy congratulates Jeff Larentowicz on game winning penalty vs. Atlanta / USA Today Sports Images)
Watching from the stands after his 31st minute red card, Magee praised Fondy’s debut, “He made the play that won us the game. It’s huge but the thing you look for as a teammate is work rate and the ability to fit in with the group – it was instant.
“He comes in and works his ass off, even without getting the game winner, he made it clear that he’s a great teammate."
Familiar with Fondy after a preseason trial the forward did with the San Jose Earthquakes in 2013, Yallop said he felt comfortable throwing the newbie into that situation.
“I told him to go out, hold the ball up and be dangerous,” said Yallop. “I know what I’m going to get from him and that’s good. He’s going to give us energy, one hundred percent effort and he’s going to try and do what’s right for the team. We got that from him right away on Wednesday."
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At 6’1”, Fondy comes in a different mold than more diminutive forwards Magee and Amarikwa. With that pair as the only other out and out forwards on the team, he sees an opportunity for playing time and potential for his Fire league debut Saturday at New England (6:00pm CT on My50/TWCSC).
“My game is best when I’m playing on the shoulder of the center backs,” he said. “Trying to get in between them, hassling and getting in behind. I’m a little different than Quincy and Mike because I’m bigger so I think together we can offer a good attack.”