Pairing Chris Rolfe, Patrick Nyarko offers Fire scoring hope
BY SETH GRUEN For Sun-Times Media May 17, 2013 11:24PM
Updated: June 19, 2013 6:17AM
Since Chris Rolfe left the team to play in Denmark after the 2009 season, the Fire’s Patrick Nyarko had long anticipated a reunion with Rolfe, who is the second-leading scorer in club history.
But even after Rolfe’s return to the Fire midway through the 2012 season, Nyarko didn’t have much of an opportunity to combine with him on a regular basis. At the time, Nyarko was playing as an outside midfielder and Rolfe as a withdrawn striker.
However, in the 1-0 loss to the Philadelphia Union last Saturday at Toyota Park, the two teamed at forward for the first time since 2008. Despite limited time to prepare, they proved to be the team’s most effective attacking duo.
“We talked a lot when he was out in Europe and when he was thinking about making this move [back to MLS] … basically telling him I think I would have more assists than I usually have if he was here,” Nyarko said.
Though the Fire was shut out for the sixth time, its play against the Union gave the club confidence it will rebound when the teams meet again Saturday in Philadelphia.
Considering the minimal preparation time given to Rolfe and Nyarko, they created numerous scoring chances. It just so happened that Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath — an otherwise shaky performer — played his best game of the season.
But it was clear midway through the first half that the skills of the two players complement each other well.
“Our styles are pretty similar,” Rolfe said. “We like to play the same way. We get joy out of playing the same kind of style and having the same kind of movements. So it’s just something that has kind of built up over time.”
Nyarko was a late-week replacement at forward for Sherjill MacDonald, who tested positive for strep throat Friday. But coincidentally, coach Frank Klopas had experimented with moving Nyarko back to forward.
His speed and 1-on-1 ability stretches out opposing defenses and opens up runs for players such as Rolfe.
“You have to try different things,” Klopas said. “It’s a situation where we just got to try to find something that’s going to click. It’s not that the other guys weren’t working or hard or weren’t playing well.”