Patrick Nyarko returns to Chicago, excited to reunite with loyal fans

WASHINGTON—Patrick Nyarko is eager to see the familiar faces that await him at Toyota Park when D.C. United visits the Chicago Fire (5 pm ET; MLS LIVE).

These days, most of those are in the stands.

Since joining D.C. this offseason, Nyarko says the stability of his new club already stands out against the repeated rebuilding attempts he witnessed during eight professional seasons in Chicago.

Patrick Nyarko

So when he emerges from Toyota Park tunnel as a visitor on Saturday afternoon, his thoughts will be centered less on the opponents wearing his old uniform, and more on the songs and sounds from his old supporters.

“Leaving there wasn’t as smooth in terms of the emotional attachment to the relationship and the fans,” Nyarko said. “The positive I’m taking away from it is, I’m going back and playing in front of them, even though I’m on the other side.”

Nyarko played under five coaches with Chicago and made the playoffs three times – only once since 2010. The last two seasons were his toughest, as the dynamic winger worked back from ACL surgery while the Fire finished 9th and then 10th in the Eastern Conference. Chicago dismissed Frank Yallop – Nyarko’s fourth manager – last September.

“I think the most successful [teams] are the ones that stick it through the tough portion of the tough stretches,” Nyarko said. “Chicago, I think that when the rebuilding process doesn’t go well, they have not been known to stick with it. They ship in new players and stuff like that, and it’s always a rebuilding instead of a continuation.”

Meanwhile, United made back-to-back playoff appearances under Ben Olsen after he was retained following a disastrous 2013 campaign.

“Benny figured out the mistakes he made and going forward what could be better, and look at the turnaround,” Nyarko said. “Sometimes you’ve got to make mistakes to get better. If you start cleaning out people after the mistakes made over a season, there’s no guarantee the next person is going to succeed.”

Nyarko said he supports the new Fire regime of general manager Nelson Rodriguez and head coach Veljko Paunovic, and wants success for his old supporters – within reason, of course.

“I’ve always been about the fans, and especially those Chicago fans who through the very bad times have always been there, who have showed their loyalty to the club and who the past few years have not been rewarded enough,” Nyarko said. “I hope after Saturday, after we beat them, that they get their reward.”