There can be little denying that soccer is as much of a team sport as any, but often times a single player can help define a season for a club. If you look back to 2000, Mamadou Diallo was that factor for the Tampa Bay Mutiny as the Senegalese striker notched an outstanding 26 goals for the now defunct franchise. We’ve also seen it with Landon Donovan in 2008, who scored 20 goals in 25 games in a season that somehow still resulted in the LA Galaxy still missing out on the MLS playoffs. Jeff Cunningham provided a similar story for FC Dallas in 2009 by scoring for fun but still seeing his side miss out on the postseason.
In similar fashion, Houston Dynamo reject Dominic Oduro was absolutely stellar for the Chicago Fire last season in his debut season for the men in red. The Ghanaian scored 12 goals as he and the rest of the team fell agonizingly short of a playoff spot. Regardless, his team MVP honors and impressive play throughout the season were a huge reason for the team’s success both in the US Open Cup and in the latter stages of the MLS season.
So who will step up and make their mark this year for the Fire? Maybe Marco Pappa will establish consistency in his performances and light opposition defenders up once again. Or maybe Federico Puppo will quickly settle in and take the league by storm this year. And perhaps Rafael Robayo will demonstrate why he was so highly sought after by the club and lead the men in red to success this year.
Not to disregard these possibilities by any means, but there is one player who stands poised to be the Fire’s go-to-guy once again this year. That man is Dominic Oduro – the Ghanaian cheetah, Freaky Fast, or whatever you enjoy calling him these days.
After an extremely successful season in front of goal last year, Oduro started 2012 off on the right foot on Saturday by finding the net to earn Chicago a 1-1 draw against Montreal. A draw was often a popular sight for the men in red last season, but so was the sight of Oduro wheeling away in celebration after scoring yet another important goal for the club.
Every Chicago Fire player has an important role to play this season if the team wants any chance of reaching the MLS playoffs for the first time since 2009, but so much of the Fire’s play will undoubtedly hinge on Dominic Oduro and his ability to provide the goods in front of goal. The Ghanaian certainly enjoyed a breakout season last year, but now he has the opportunity to really establish himself as one of the elite strikers in this league and, in the process, help lead this team to success.
Every striker is culpable of having an off-day from time to time, and Oduro is certainly no different (DC United at home last year), but if Dominic remains consistent throughout this season the club has an excellent chance of reaching the heights of 2008 and 2009 when the Fire finished one step short of reaching an MLS Cup Final in successive years.
Following a highly impressive finish to the 2011 season and several key signings over the off-season, hopes are high this year for Chicago. Anything but a deep run in the US Open Cup and a playoff spot will most likely be viewed as a disappointment and fortunately for the Fire, Oduro is poised to ensure this season does not end in disappointment. Oduro’s goals will be vital once again this season, although Barouch looks prepared to chip in with his fair share while Federico Puppo will hopefully establish himself as a danger man in the opposition penalty box. We know the Fire’s midfield is also capable of contributing to the team’s scoring.
Oduro’s goal on Saturday will provide him with some vital early confidence as the season starts to take shape and hopefully this weekend’s home opener will see him extend his scoring streak. The Fire need big things from him this year and, if my instinct is anything to go by, he’s more than ready to deliver and be the Fire’s go-to-guy.
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