COLUMBUS, Ohio — Dilly Duka picked himself off the ground after scoring the first goal of his Chicago Fire career in a 2-1 win over Columbus on Saturday and pointed at Joel Lindpere, who sent him a pinpoint cross, with a smile on his face.
The 23-year-old looked like he had done it before. But in reality, his side-footed redirection into an open goal, which came after a shifty run, was far from routine for Duka – it was his first goal in the last two seasons.
“I needed my first goal in a Chicago jersey,” the former Crew midfielder said. “I feel like I’ve been getting good shots off in past games and I’ve just been a little unlucky. This one I got played a good ball and I just made sure I got behind it so it could go in. I’m happy for that, but it’s extra special we got the three points with it.”
Duka has been on the verge of becoming an impact player for the Fire all season after Chicago acquired him from Columbus, and in a few recent starts, with Lindpere away on international duty, he impressed coach Frank Klopas.
Klopas said in recent weeks that Duka still needed to improve in the final third, and throughout Saturday's game, he seemed to impress his coach in that area of the field.
“It was good to see him score because he's done everything right,” Klopas told MLSsoccer.com. “He's got so much ability and you see it. He can play a lot better because he's a young player and he's learning but the games he's had, even before this game, he's been really fantastic with his ability to create but also defend without the ball has been the key.
"Tonight, he scored a big goal but also created a lot of opportunities for us.”
Duka's strong performance capped off a big week for the former US youth international. He earned a penalty kick against Colorado on Wednesday in an overall strong game, when he started over Lindpere even though the Estonian was back from Europe.
The midfielder took a while to make a significant impact, but he's shown that he can be an important player for the Fire down the stretch.
“He's a guy, he's just like Patrick [Nyarko], when you get him outside and you get him one-v-one, he can beat guys,” midfielder Jeff Larentowicz told MLSsoccer.com. “He did that several times. When he can do that, he can open doors. Last game he won a PK and [Saturday] he was fantastic.”