BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- Patrick Nyarko doesn’t get ejected from games. Prior to being shown two yellow cards in 22 minutes after entering the March 16 match at Portland, the Ghanaian winger had only received eight cautions in 161 MLS matches.
Despite having to play down a man in the difficult climes of Providence Park, the Fire earned a well-fought draw with the Timbers that day but the Fire were left without one of their most potent offensive weapons for the team’s home opener the following week vs. New York.
“More than anything the last game I played wasn’t very good and I contributed to the team negatively,” Nyarko told Chicago-Fire.com “Since I’ve been here, I’ve always prided myself on helping this team win and produce positively. The game at Portland, that wasn’t me.”
Returning to the field Saturday in D.C., Nyarko made amends for his sending off stretching the United backline before coming up with a clutch moment of brilliance he's come to be known for by nutmegging left back Cristian and finding Quincy Amarikwa for the game’s equalizer in the 83rd minute.
The sixth-year Fire player earned his 33rd MLS assist, moving him to within two of Justin Mapp for fourth most in club history. Beyond stats, Nyarko says he used the time off to work on his fitness level and also take a look a closer look at himself.
“Not being involved in the last game and helping the team get more points, I had to think about where my mentality was at. I can’t always control my health but when I’m capable of playing and unable to help my team, that’s disappointing and so that weighed on me the week of the home opener.”
Nyarko’s bounce back from his Portland nightmare should make Frank Yallop’s lineup decision for Saturday’s home game vs. Philadelphia interesting (TICKETS). In the absences of Nyarko and fellow winger Dilly Duka this season, the team has been bolstered by young talent in the form of Harry Shipp and Benji Joya.
Playing in wide positions, the youthful pair have combined for a goal and two assists through the team’s first four matches and provided competition out wide that Nyarko says he hasn’t seen in a while at the Fire.
“The competition is healthy and more than often it’s huge for the team to have such depth. We’ve had some good teams but besides my first couple years here, I this is the deepest we’ve been.
“It’s good for the team -- you know you don’t have to play through a lot of injuries if you have them. It’s not about me playing or someone else playing, it’s about the team doing well and we all want success for the team. We’ll sacrifice whatever we need to for the betterment of this club.”
Despite being winless through March, Nyarko says the team’s ability to earn results in three of their first four matches has the locker room more upbeat than it was at this point last year when the Fire had earned just one point, scored just one goal and conceded nine.
“It’s more of a positive mood. This coaching staff is doing a good job of keeping us level-headed no matter the situation. We’re not far off from a victory, we need to correct a few little mistakes and we’ll get back on track.”