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Battered and bruised, Nyarko still excelling for Chicago

Chicago winger Patrick Nyarko

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Getty Images

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – During a weekend at home in Richmond, Va., over the international break, Chicago Fire midfielder Patrick Nyarko couldn’t keep his mind off of soccer.

Sitting at home in front of the television, his thoughts would flash to a mistake he had made during the two-week stretch before, when the Fire lost four of five games. He’d be lying in bed, and he’d think of a run he made or a pass that went awry. He also thought about how he’d tweak his play while hamstring and hip injuries bother him.

“I haven’t been myself the last few weeks,” Nyarko told MLSsoccer.com after the weekend off. “I have a pretty good mental image of how the game goes, all my touches, I have it in my head. I always go for the bad ones and try to correct them.”

Between the Lines: Nyarko

Nyarko’s cerebral approach paid off.

On Sunday, the Ghanaian midfielder cut up the New York defense in the Fire’s 3-1 win, notching a goal and an assist. And he hardly put a foot wrong all match.

Nyarko scored in the fourth minute of the game, leaping over defender Roy Miller to connect with a Sebastián Grazzini cross. His powerful header looped across the goal and into the top corner, well out of goalkeeper Ryan Meara’s reach.

In the 81st minute, Nyarko blew by Heath Pearce and made one of his patented runs to the endline before slotting a pass across the goal mouth to a wide-open Chris Rolfe, who tapped in an easy goal.

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“It was classic Patrick,” Rolfe said. “He does it all by himself on the outside, making it really easy for me.  As soon as he got his touch past the defender I knew that he was going to slide it across, and I just had to be there.”

Nyarko knows at some point he may have to take a game off to rest his ailing body, but he’s been reluctant to take days off with the team short-handed. Just to play each week, he has to take pain-relieving injections.

With Rolfe easing into the lineup, and midfielder Alex available at the end of the month when the transfer window opens, the time for some rest may be fast approaching.

“When we have our full complement of players back … we can have that conversation,” Nyarko said. “Right now we haven’t come to that point where I can’t play.”

Captain Logan Pause thinks that Nyarko needs to focus on keeping himself out of dangerous situations on the field.

“I try to get him to defend himself more, and not necessarily go in for the hard challenges where he comes out with bruises, because we need him,” Pause told MLSsoccer.com. “He just gets kicked and kicked and kicked, and part of it is just his ability, and guys can’t time their tackles, and part of it is his commitment to the team, and he’s willing to sacrifice his body.”

Nyarko may need to take his health into consideration, but Pause doesn’t want that to take away from his best qualities.

“Ever since I’ve known him, Patrick has been playing banged up,” Pause said. “Sometimes he needs to be thinking about the bigger picture. But at the same time, that’s one of his best qualities, that he would do anything for the team.”