Chicago Fire forward Dominic Oduro flies down the right wing, latching onto a Pável Pardo long ball 10 yards outside the box.
He immediately blows past Colorado defender Tyrone Marshall, taking a fantastic first touch to race past the hopeless center back and into the middle of the area. There he takes a second, softer dribble, creating a better angle for himself before burying a low right-footer inside the far post.
That goal on Aug. 27 against the Colorado Rapids was quintessential Oduro. It had everything you want from the Ghanaian striker: a nicely shaped run, a defender left in the dust and a smooth finish.
It was the type of play that gave opposing defenses nightmares, and turned 2011 into a career year for Chicago’s star striker and leading scorer.
“Obviously it was a big season,” he told MLSsoccer.com last week. “Everything went right for me.”
But will Oduro be able to have another big year in 2012? The 26-year-old had never scored more than five goals in any of his five MLS seasons prior to 2011 and was a notoriously poor finisher.
Though his strong first year in Chicago silenced most of his critics, questions remain about whether or not Oduro can keep it going this year.
But you won’t hear any doubts from the man himself, with Oduro looking to improve upon his 12-goal tally with a strong 2012.
“I want more,” he said. “I’m trying to obviously get past my 12 league goals that I scored. It’s not going to come from me alone, it’s also going to come from my teammates, so I guess I just have to listen to them, work hard at practice every day and keep believing.”
Two Fire players that played a big role in Oduro’s strong 2011 were midfielders Pardo and Sebastián Grazzini. The pair of midseason signings facilitated Oduro’s late-season tear, setting him up time after time as he scored seven goals in his last 14 games.
Both Pardo and Grazzini will be back for the entire 2012 season, something that will only help Oduro as he looks to set a new career-high in goals scored.
“We’re talking about two talented players there,” Oduro said. “[Pardo] helps you a lot with your game. I’ve learned a lot from him and I think everyone on the team will tell you the same thing about him.
“Grazzini’s a playmaker,” he added. “He can just find you everywhere you go. The two of them made a huge impact on the team and on me. It’s huge that they’re back and I’m looking forward to working with them again.”
Apart from actually spending an entire year with Pardo and Grazzini, Oduro won’t change much about how he prepares this season. He’ll still work hard, he’ll still rely on his teammates and – most importantly – he’ll keep on believing in himself.
“I know my team is going to help me out so I’m just trying to push myself to go past the 12 goals that I scored last season,” he said. “It’s not going to be easy, I know that the target has been set high, but I believe that if I train hard with my teammates and coaches behind me, that I’ll be able to get that far.”