BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. — When a wide-eyed Dominic Oduro turned down a contract offer from the Houston Dynamo this winter in search of a European deal, he thought he’d be taking a step forward. Turns out, Oduro’s decision launched the most unpredictable offseason of an already turbulent career.
He didn’t catch on with any European clubs, mustering a lone tryout with an Israeli club. Finding himself without a contract in late February, Oduro decided to try and re-earn his spot with Houston and eventually signed with the team three weeks before First Kick.
But Oduro’s second stint with the Dynamo wasn’t a long one. The attacker — often criticized as a poor finisher — missed a sitter in Houston’s opener, airmailing a Brad Davis ball over the crossbar from the top of the six in the Dynamo’s 1-0 loss to Philadelphia.
The miss drew a cavalcade of boos from the Robertson Stadium crowd and, more importantly, it turned out to be Oduro’s last notable play as a member of the Dynamo. Four days after that defeat, Houston shipped him off to Chicago in exchange for injured forward Calen Carr.
“It’s been a little bit hectic for me,” Oduro told MLSsoccer.com after a recent training session at Toyota Park. “I was a free agent, I tried to get some stuff going for me and it didn’t work out. I came back to Houston ready and focused to go and then I got traded to Chicago.
“Normally when you get traded like that, it’s like a blow to you — you just don’t know what happened, whether your team didn’t want you or whether the team that you got traded to was really interested. It was kind of like a dicey situation for me.”
The trade, which was the third of Oduro’s career, shook his confidence — but only helped his play. He’s excelled since joining the Fire, scoring four goals and providing two assists in 16 games. Used as a forward for most of his career, Oduro has become entrenched in the Fire’s starting lineup as a winger, where he’s become the key cog in Chicago’s counterattack.
“I think I’m having one of the best MLS seasons I’ve [ever] had,” Oduro said. “I have great teammates who are pushing me forward. We have a great interim coach [Frank Klopas] who tried to make me be very comfortable with my decisions on the field and I can’t ask for anything more.”
Oduro’s teammates are noticing his good play. Fire captain Logan Pause and fellow winger Patrick Nyarko both said that Oduro’s been a great help to the team on the field and in the locker room during what has been a bumpy 2011 season.
“His pace and movement are incredibly dangerous,” Pause said, “but he’s also a guy that’s a great personality in the locker room. There are things that not everyone from the outside can see that are important and good to have. … He’s been fantastic for our team in on-field production and hopefully it continues to grow and continues to get better.
“He’s fit right into what this group is about,” Pause added. “He’s integrated seamlessly and now it’s just about continuing to build and knowing each other’s characteristics.”
Oduro’s easy transition into the Fire was helped by the fact that he knew several players before arriving in Chicago. He played with defender Gonzalo Segares at Virginia Commonwealth University and knew Pause, his countryman Nyarko, midfielder Baggio Husidic and defender Yamith Cuesta before being traded.
“I think it has to do with the team, the guys I’m playing with and my mentality, too,” Oduro said. “I’m really, really focused and I don’t think I’ve ever been this focused. With all this stuff bunched together, it’s an amazing feeling. That’s what’s pushing me forward right now.”
The team is currently two points behind Houston for the 10th and final postseason spot but is trending upward under Klopas. If the Fire manage to return to the postseason after missing out last year, trust that Oduro will stay happy and — he hopes — in Chicago.
“I think we’re moving forward right now,” he said. “It’s just a matter of putting into gear and we’ll be right there. I think [my career] is very stabilized. I’m doing great and I’m loving it right now.”
Sam Stejskal covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @samstejskal