Fire veterans Nyarko, Rolfe prepared to fight for jobs
BY BRIAN SANDALOW For Sun-Times Media March 28, 2014 8:22PM
Updated: March 28, 2014 11:32PM
Patrick Nyarko and Chris Rolfe have been Fire mainstays. They’ve been important parts of playoff teams and are two of the club’s most senior players.
But with the amount of attacking and midfield options coach Frank Yallop can use, Nyarko and Rolfe are far from guaranteed to start for the Fire (0-1-2).
Young midfielders Harry Shipp and Benji Joya have made positive impacts and are pushing for starting jobs. Alex has done nothing to warrant losing his spot, and Dilly Duka could return from his hamstring problem.
“We have Patrick, we’ve got Dilly, we have [Rolfe], we’ve got some guys coming back from injury and suspension that are dying to play,” Yallop said, “but they’ve got to get on the field to earn their spot as everyone else has.”
Nyarko and Rolfe know that, and they’re ready to fight for their jobs and relish the competition heading into the match Saturday at D.C. United (0-2-0).
“It’s awesome,” Nyarko said. “As a veteran guy, I came in when there were guys in there, and I still played. I’m happy with these guys playing, and everyone has a role. At some point, you have to step in and do your job. I’m glad there’s a lot of guys that can do that.”
Neither Nyarko nor Rolfe has gotten off to the kind of start they’d want.
Nyarko started the season opener against Chivas USA and came on as a substitute two weeks ago in Portland, but he took two yellow cards and was suspended for the 1-1 tie Sunday against the New York Red Bulls. Rolfe hasn’t played after logging 75 minutes against Chivas and has been out with an injured right foot since.
Over that time, Shipp and Joya have emerged as plausible candidates to start on the wings, and Mike Magee has returned to the lineup, dropping into a deeper midfield role. And that’s all for a new coach who has put in a new system, which inevitably will lead to competition and changes.
Rolfe doesn’t need to be reminded of that.
“The young guys — Benji and Harry — have come in and done a great job. They have a lot of potential,” Rolfe said. “I think they’ve been very good for the team and the attitude so far this season. So the competition is definitely there, and I’m just involved in that competition.”
The competition certainly doesn’t bother Yallop. The crowded midfield is a problem he likes and gives him options based on who’s playing well now, not who did what years ago.
It also could lead to a rotation, though Yallop was coy when asked about that possibility.
“Yeah, we’ll see. I’m not going to tell you my secrets, but we’ll figure out who gets to play and who doesn’t,” Yallop said. “They’ve got to earn their spot, and I don’t just give spots to people. They’ve got to earn it, and they’ve got to make sure they’re clued into the team concept.”