BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – Chicago Fire midfielder Patrick Nyarko was heading into coach Frank Klopas’ office last Thursday morning, ready to discuss how the coaching staff would deal with his lingering back and hamstring injuries.
That talk had to wait for another day.
News broke of Pappa’s immediate transfer to SC Heerenveen of the Dutch Eredivisie that morning, and all of a sudden Nyarko had his automatic starting spot back, which may be difficult for him to fill every game down the stretch.
“It’s going to be tough,” Nyarko told MLSsoccer.com. “It’s going to be absolutely tough. I think things have built up ever since I’ve been having these problems. Right now, it’s a grind.”
Nyarko had been waiting to take a break all season, and he found that opportunity when the Fire traded for Álvaro Fernández on July 27.
For the next few weeks, Klopas used a rotation on the wings of Fernández, Pappa, and Nyarko, allowing each to remain fresh.
Now, that depth is gone. The Fire have Brazilian midfielder Alex, who scored his first goal in a Fire uniform, on the bench as a capable starter, and forward Dominic Oduro can slide in if need be.
But after those two, attacking experience is light. Corben Bone, who has never received consistent playing time in his three Fire seasons, and 19-year-old Homegrown player Victor Pineda are the next two players on the Fire depth chart.
“Of course you miss someone like Marco,” Klopas said. “But the group is strong. You have guys like [Fernández] and Patrick and maybe opportunities for guys like Corben and Victor now, who’s been doing well. If we need them to step in there, we have the confidence that they’ll be able to do so.”
Nyarko, who has to take pain relieving shots just to take the field, will have to hold down a starting spot for the foreseeable future.
Klopas expects to play the Ghanaian as long as he can.
“If he’s healthy, he’s going to be on the field playing,” Klopas said. “He feels good, he’s on the field playing.”