BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – New Chicago Fire signing Robert Earnshaw arrived at Toyota Park for his first session with the team on Thursday.
The veteran Welsh international forward got off on the right foot with local media when asked about his jersey number choice of 88 joking, “Apparently I’m a big Dale Earnhart Jr. fan," referring to the NASCAR driver's famous #88 vehicle.
He followed up by saying, “I wanted a high number. I want to be here long enough to score that many goals.”
Maybe 88 goals for the Fire isn’t in the cards but even a few from him over the next 11 games might convert what would add to a league-leading 13 draws into valuable wins as the club sits three points out of the final playoff place in the Eastern Conference.
“[I’m] hoping to come and if I can give something to the team and give an energy that changes those ties into wins, that’s what I’m after,” he continued. “For me I’ve had a lot of years and experience playing with some top, top guys. If I can bring that experience to this team and hopefully it’s critical in certain games then that’s going to be a big factor as well.”
Earnshaw received his International Transfer Certificate and P-1 Visa Wednesday morning in London and arrived in Chicago Wednesday night.
Coming off the European offseason, Earnshaw admitted he’s not in the same shape as the rest of his teammates but Fire head coach Frank Yallop still said he hoped the Welshman could play a part when the team visits his former side Toronto FC on Saturday (5:30pm CT on My50/TWCSC).
“He’s been training, he looks pretty fit and ready to go,” Yallop told reporters. “As soon as we can get him on the field it’ll help us. The goals have dried up for us lately so we’re adding a quality player that’s played in the league, which I like.”
Earnshaw has scored 176 goals in his professional career, with eight of those coming during his time with TFC last season. He said Thursday it would be special to make his debut for the Fire on Saturday against the Reds.
“I’m hoping [to play a part],” he said. “For me it’s obviously a huge game. First game for Chicago and could be against my old team. I’m very close to Toronto as well because moving from the other side of the world, I’ve played most of my career in the UK and the support I got there was unbelievable. I never got a chance to say a goodbye and thank you so it will be a ‘Welcome, Chicago’ and also ‘Goodbye, Toronto’ at the same time. That’s going to be nice.”
And even though he enjoyed his time in Toronto, Earnshaw said he’d had his eye on Chicago and the Fire as early as last year.
“As soon as the season actually finished last year when the negotiations with Toronto didn’t happen, one of the teams I mentioned to my agent was Chicago. I thought it would be a great city and a great team to play for. It’s funny that everything has kind of come round and I end up here. I’m excited. I’m really excited for the city, excited to play in front of the fans.
“I’ve got lots of goals in me and I’m looking to bring them here. That hunger to be out there and play is what I’m about. I love to be out there, I love to play, I love to score goals, celebrate and enjoy it. If I can contribute to the team at the same time and really get us to win games then it’ll be perfect.”