Patrick Nyarko

Patrick Nyarko

Patrick Nyarko has made an immediate impact on his return from injury and believes the Chicago Fire?s significant depth can propel them into the playoff picture once key players return to full health.

The Ghanaian winger has endured a rough 12 months, first spraining his knee and having spurs removed from his left ankle last May, which sidelined him for four months, before an ACL injury suffered against D.C. United on Oct. 18 ended his season altogether.

As such, the 29-year-old only featured in 17 games for the Fire in 2014, starting just nine, but his goal-scoring return to action in Friday?s 1-1 tie at the Houston Dynamo is just the tonic needed to rebuild his confidence after such a difficult absence. It put the icing on a memorable week after setting up fellow long-term absentee Mike Magee for his second goal in the Fire?s 3-1 U.S. Open Cup win over the Charlotte Independence last Tuesday.

Nyarko, who was selected seventh by the Fire in the 2008 MLS SuperDraft, is the longest tenured player with the club following the retirements of Logan Pause and Gonzalo Segares, but he sees this side?s improved roster depth as a key factor in their efforts to climb off the bottom of the Eastern Conference starting with their home match Saturday against the Seattle Sounders (7:30 pm CT; CSN Chicago).

?We have such a deep team this year,? Nyarko told this week. ?In previous years we?ve had good teams; we?ve had great teams here before, but the depth of this team all the way down is just incredible. It?s unfortunate we?ve not been able to see it in full effect with all the injuries; one goes down, one comes back, one goes down, and that?s the frustrating part.

?I?m really curious and excited to see what it will be like when everyone is healthy. ? I feel like with everyone healthy we would actually gain confidence and strength together and go on a run.?

One player Nyarko is excited to play alongside is Shaun Maloney, someone the self-proclaimed Manchester United fan watched score against the Red Devils and several of the English Premier League?s elite before joining the Fire this season. Maloney is sidelined with a back injury, as is fellow Designated Player David Accam, another player Nyarko will have to wait to play with.

?It?s pretty incredible,? Nyarko said. ?I watched Shaun Maloney destroy Manchester United, a team I support, and I feel excited to know that I can play with him. It?s enormous. He?s also one of the nicest guys I?ve ever met, and we talk all the time. Even when I was injured and he was playing, the most encouragement I got was from Shaun Maloney.

?It?s unfortunate I?m back and he?s hurt, but I hope he?s back soon. We?ve talked about the prospect of playing together, especially with David, as well. It?s going to be incredible.?

?It?s a massive boost for us,? Accam said when asked about the significance of the return of Nyarko and Magee to fitness. ?You know Patrick and Mike are really great players, experienced players, and we need all of this to survive in this league. At the moment the confidence is up in the team because we have these two back, and they are playing well. They?re not just back in the team, they are playing well, scoring goals, and that?s good for us for the next games.?

While Nyarko, like Magee, will need minutes on the pitch to get up to full speed, his game-tying goal and an assist in less than an hour?s play has been a huge boost to the struggling Fire (4-9-3, 15 points), who are eight points adrift of the final playoff spot.

?More than anything, it?s just the confidence that I can still do it because it?s such a serious injury you don?t know what your career holds, if you?re going to come back and be yourself and be able to do the things you used to do,? Nyarko said when asked about what it meant to make such an impact on his return. ?I still contemplate on that even though it?s been a confident start, and I?m still sharp.

?But I hope that I can string together a few more consistent games for me to gain the full confidence that I can do the things I did before I got injured.?

Those ?things? he did saw him earn plaudits as he led the Fire in assists in three seasons from 2010-2012, with a total of 35 in 177 regular-season games before this year. His pace, quick feet and ability to dribble past defenders has established him as a firm favorite among the club?s fans, while his humility and honesty makes him one of the most likeable characters in the Fire locker room.

?Patrick has been, if not the top, pretty close to being one of the best players in the last six years at Chicago,? head coach Frank Yallop told ?So for us, to have him available, and he?s not 100 percent yet, we know that, but to have him available is great. Patrick?s got something different to a lot of players, he?s great on the dribble, he?s got a real good sense of when to do it and when not to, so it?s good to have him. He?s made a difference since he?s been back.?

While the injury has proven to be the most testing time of his professional career, Nyarko is hoping to put that behind him and concentrate all his efforts on returning the team to winning ways and climbing the table.

?I just want to help this team win; I?ve always been about this team,? Nyarko said. ?It hurt me for the guys that they were working their behinds off in training and not getting the results to reflect that. So it hurts me for them, and now that I?m back I?m going to try to get back to my utmost best, attack, create chances and get a couple more goals to help this team progress and make it into the playoffs.

?I definitely feel like we have a playoff team, we just need to go out and show it.?


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