The soreness and fatigue Sherjill MacDonald felt at the beginning of Chicago Fire training camp was familiar. But this time, the pain was welcome.
MacDonald struggled with conditioning throughout the tail-end of the 2012 after arriving in July from a lengthy holiday. With the benefit of a full preseason, he's ready to show why the Fire made him a Designated Player.
“I'm definitely at the point now that I feel good,” MacDonald told MLSsoccer.com from the team's training camp in Charleston, S.C. “If you play soccer, you're always going to feel soreness, but I think now, my body is prepared for that work. It's easier for me to cope with.”
MacDonald scored only four goals in 12 starts last season, but he showed moments of brilliance that offered glimpses of why the Fire made him their highest paid player. In a late-season game at Red Bull Arena he scored twice, using his strength to hold off defenders and pace to blow by them, and he was constantly a threat in setting up the rest of the team’s attackers.
But the overall theme of his time last year was “what could have been.” MacDonald just wasn’t sharp enough in front of the net, something he himself readily admits.
“I came directly from holiday, so it was difficult,” MacDonald said. “Toward the end of the season, I was much better, but I think I'm a different player with preseason.”
Throughout 2012, MacDonald was his own worst critic. After a preseason, he said over and over, he would finally be 100 percent.
The Fire showed faith in MacDonald by trading 2012 leading goalscorer Dominic Oduro earlier this month. He thinks the five weeks the team has spent in Florida, California, and South Carolina will help him prove they made a savvy investment when they signed him.
“I just want to be a good player for the team and work hard for the team,” MacDonald said. “I don't want to put a number on it, but I just want to score. … I'm just happy this year I can do a full preseason.”
If goals follow as a result, Chicago will be happy as well.