Wednesday may not be such a good day to be a Chicago Fire defender.
That’s because the Fire backline has to contend with Orlando City’s fired-up sparkplug striker Dom Dwyer in their single-elimination US Open Cup quarterfinal at Toyota Park (8:30 pm ET, live chat on MLSsoccer.com).
And Dwyer, who already has locked up the USL PRO (third division) single-season scoring record, is not just a forward who happens to have found a good vein. He’s also clearly miffed.
Not at the Fire. But that still won’t spare them.
WATCH: Dwyer's interview on "Soccer Morning"
Dwyer is irked at some of the media coverage that surrounded his return to Kansas City in the previous round of the USOC, when he was at the center of a whirlwind of debate ahead of a match in which he didn't even feature.
The Englishman, who turns 23 on July 30, has been on loan from Sporting Kansas City since February and his MLS club did not allow the high-scoring forward to play against them in a competitive knockout match. Orlando City didn't need him, upsetting the Open Cup holders 1-0.
“A lot of things I say have been taken out of proportion and been changed to make me or either club look bad,” he told MLSsoccer.com over the phone on Tuesday night from Chicago.
When asked to specify what and how he was misrepresented, Dwyer opted not to elaborate, but the uneasiness was palpable from the opening exchange of the interview.
Highlights: Dwyer nets brace vs. Rapids
So, after beating a team like Sporting KC on the road in the fourth round, do Orlando City, who haven’t lost since April, feel good about their chances against Chicago?
“We’re excited to play,” was Dwyer’s four-word response.
He made it clear he that he was choosing his words carefully after getting burned previously. On this interview, he was playing it straight.
Dwyer simply states that he’s enjoying his time with Orlando because he’s actually getting to show what he can do after a 2012 rookie season spent riding the pine in Kansas City.
He’s hit it off with Orlando City – “they’ve looked after me,” he says – as well as with OCSC head coach Adrian Heath, a fellow Englishman who was a similar short, spunky forward in his playing days.
“I can’t express how good of a coach he is,” says Dwyer.
“I’m playing for Orlando right now and as a professional you can only think about the team that you’re on,” he continued. “All I’m thinking about is Orlando … if and when [Sporting KC] call me back, I’ll be playing for them.”
That moment can't be too far down the line. After all, the USL PRO champions are crowned by September, which means there will still be plenty of MLS season left this year for Dwyer to continue to prove his point even though he admits feeling “distant” from Sporting – “I haven’t really spoken to them,” Dwyer says.
When he does return to MLS there’ll surely be those who might wonder whether all the buzz about Dwyer is plain over the top.
GOAL: Dwyer 'megs Fluminense defender
To discount his 15 USL goals, they will likely point out that they came in the third division. But Dwyer was also the one who delivered the one-two knockout blow to the Colorado Rapids in the third round of the Open Cup (highlights here) and, for good measure, he nutmegged his defender and scored against defending Brazilian league champions Fluminense in a friendly last Saturday.
Dwyer may not be so eager to talk a big game these days. It's his goals doing all the talking.
And that could spell trouble for the Chicago Fire, although many still expect Orlando City to just sit back and hope for a lucky counter.
“I don’t know about that," Dwyer says. "We’re a team that plays. I’m sure we’ll be doing what we do every single game.”