In today's edition of the Gameday Q&A, I caught up with Fire midfielder Patrick Nyarko. One of the longest tenured players on the current roster, I spoke to Patrick about leadership, career aspirations, the desire to win trophies and his future career aspirations...
Jeff Crandall: What is your idea of being a leader?
Patrick Nyarko: For me, I’m not very vocal but I do it on the field. I come to training every day, put in the work I’m supposed to do and not complain about anything. I’m a guy that’s been through a lot of injuries but I almost never want to miss practice – the coaches might give me a day off and I’m freaking out because I want to train. I think that’s the example I try to set for the young guys. In games I try to execute the game plan to perfection and do everything the coaches require of me.
JC: Last week you opened up your sixth season with the Fire. What does it mean to be one of the club's longest tenured players?
PN: It’s a good feeling. The Fire is such a good organization – they’ve kept me around for a while and that means a lot to me. It shows they appreciate what I’m doing and I obviously feel the same way about the club. Playing in this beautiful city and in front of this great crowd every week – I couldn’t ask for anything more.
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JC: What personal goals do you set for yourself at the beginning of a season?
PN: I go into the season maybe not with specific goals but trying to contribute in whatever way I can. Maybe its that my goal scoring needs to improve, getting more assists or defensively needing to improve. I go through all those scenarios for my position and what the coaching staff requires. To sum it up, I just want to be there to contribute to the team winning.
JC: As people began to see more from SuperDraft pick Yazid Atouba throughout preseason, some began calling him a “young Patrick Nyarko”. What does that mean to you and how do you think he’s come along with this team?
PN: It’s an honor to see someone, especially from Africa and very young being compared to me. It shows that I’ve been appreciated and I do the work I need to do. Yazid is a tremendous guy. He’s stepped in full of confidence and I think he’s going to be a huge part of this team this year.
Even though he’s young, he’s got the confidence of a top guy in this league. You don’t see that with a lot of rookies when they come in. He does what he does very well and I think with the group we have he’s going to keep improving every day.
He’s ready now to step into MLS games and be a huge contributor this year.
JC: You came in towards the end of the Fire/Revolution playoff encounters in 2008 but you still were part of some great games. Talk about that rivalry...
PN: Even though we missed the playoffs a couple years and New England has missed for three years, it hasn’t diminished. They’re always heated games. I remember last year playing them the second time over there, it was very tense – there’s never a dull moment. I don’t think they like us and we don’t like them either so we just want to go and beat them every time.
My favorite memories go back to 2008 and 2009 when we beat them in the playoffs here at Toyota Park but more generally it’s the battles. You had really good one-on-one matchups in those games. I think back to Gonzalo [Segares] going up against Sainey Nyassi in 2008. Nyassi was just tearing the league apart and Gonzalo almost every time was winning that duel against him.
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JC: You’re 27 years old and in my view one of the more underrated players in MLS… What are your career aspirations? Do you see yourself trying to move abroad at some point?
PN: My mentality is to keep performing at a high level and stay injury free. I think I still have a couple more years before the European window closes on me but I believe if its there for you, its going to come around. I need to stay healthy and play at a high level.
JC: You’ve been to a SuperLiga and U.S. Open Cup final and twice within one game of playing in MLS Cup but a trophy has eluded you. Does that wear on you?
PN: Absolutely. Looking back on the teams we’ve had in the past – they were excellent teams. We’ve gotten so close and lost in penalties, regulation, always getting knocked out. It’s not a fun feeling obviously but we believe in the direction the coaching staff and organization is trying to head bringing in some of these new guys to try and form a championship team.
We took a huge step last year but I think we’re ready to go further this year and the guys are on board.