BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – Patrick Nyarko didn't want to take a break when he was hampered by nagging injuries during the middle of the 2012 season, knowing that the Fire couldn't afford to be without him.
In 2013, he knows depth won't be an issue down the stretch.
With Patrick Nyarko, Alex, Dilly Duka and Joel Lindpere all in form and fighting for two starting outside midfield spots, one of those players taking a much-needed rest won't be a big deal over the final six games of the season.
“We all don't feel as much pressure to perform half-power or whatever, not in full form,” Nyarko told MLSsoccer.com. “Once you have a nick or something, someone can step in and do as good of a job, so you don't feel pressure to make your injury worse. It's definitely a luxury to have.”
The Fire are deeper on the flanks than they've been all season. For the first time since Arevalo Rios's arrival, which pushed Alex to the outside, all four attacking midfielders will be healthy, rested and available on Saturday. All four have taken a consistent starting spot at one time or another this year, and Alex's 15 starts are the least of the four.
“Making Frank's job as difficult as possible is great for the team,” forward Mike Magee told MLSsoccer.com. “There's a couple of guys that won't start on Saturday that deserve to be starting, and that's great because the guys that are starting deserve to start as well. Down the stretch, there are going to be injuries, we're going to have guys in yellow card trouble, so we're going to need everyone. The more of them that are chomping at the bit, the better.”
Joel Lindpere leads the team with seven assists, all of which have come since June 22nd, but his status as a starter has been tenuous this season.
Despite his strong run of play, the Estonian understands why he may start some games and come on late in others. While he's a strong crosser of the ball, Alex is a crafty offensive player and Patrick Nyarko and Dilly Duka are speedy outside players.
That difference, he says, is a good thing.
“I think with me, I'm a different type of guy,” Lindpere said. “If I have the chance to put a good ball into the box, I will do it. I'm not the fastest dribbler. I think it's good for the coaching staff to see variations, how we play and what type of players we put in the top and what midfielders are playing on the outside.”
Who will get the nod on Saturday at Columbus is anyone's guess. All four players started at least once over the last three games, with Alex and Duka sitting last Saturday against New England after starting twice earlier in the week.
“Coach's headache,” Nyarko said. “That's when you hope you're not making the selections. On the other hand, you can count on quality whenever you need it. You're not scared someone's going to get hurt and someone is not going to have a good day and you're not going to have a replacement. It's a good and bad thing for a coach, but from a competitive standpoint, you compete in training here on the field with this quality, you're ready on the field. Whoever steps on there is ready and tested to go on there right away.”