New Fire MF Duka: "I was too complacent in Columbus"
For a while now, Dilly Duka has been looking for a fresh start.
The midfielder could see the writing on the wall last season when he lost his starting spot at the Columbus Crew with five games remaining in 2012.
“I personally felt that I was too complacent and a little too content in that atmosphere,” Duka told MLSsoccer.com by phone on Tuesday. “I just needed a new environment to rekindle my drive and go forward."
With the Chicago Fire trading for him on Monday, Duka now has a chance to reboot a career that has been filled with promise, but devoid of significant production.
The 23-year-old was poised for a breakout season in 2012 after an offseason training with the Generation adidas team and the United States Under-23 national team ahead of the Olympic qualifying tournament. But 12 minutes into that first qualifier, Duka tore his hamstring, which sidelined him for the better part of the next three months.
“It was a lesson well-learned,” Duka said. “Now I know that in the offseason, you need to be off for a good amount of time."
WATCH: Duka on Fire vs. Crew rivalry
Duka regained his starting spot with the Crew in July, starting 11 of the club's next 12 games. But after taking time away from the team in September, the third-year midfielder started on the bench for the last five games of the season.
He first heard of the Fire's interest in December, and he knew a deal was close when he met with the club's front office and coaching staff last week.
Chicago were cautious with their vetting process, and coach Frank Klopas said the club isn't worried about Duka's character after the apparent falling-out in Columbus.
“I found that the kid is a stand-up guy, he's got a lot of character, he works very hard, and a lot of times things happen and things get blown out of proportion,” Klopas said on a conference call from Ventura, Calif., this week. “We don't know what really happened there. You read stuff in the paper, but I've talked to the kid many times. I think he's looking forward to being part of this organization, and really have an impact being the player based on the talent he has.”
The Fire were in need of another outside midfielder after Álvaro Fernández's departure this offseason, and Duka has a chance to slide right into the Uruguayan's spot on the left side.
Duka never reported to preseason with the Crew, so he's working his way into shape after meeting up with the Fire in Southern California this past weekend for the club's second phase of preseason.
After a busy offseason put too much strain on his body last year, the extra rest was welcome. Now, he's focused on rejuvenating his young career.
“This offseason, I took a good amount of time off, and I'm healthy as we speak,” Duka said. “I was just excited that [the trade] happened now rather than later, so I actually get to come to preseason with a team.”
Anthony Zilis covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com