The Chicago Fire continued their tradition of gifting D.C. United useful players for peanuts in 2016, as Patrick Nyarko was traded to the Black-and-Red for a 2016 second round draft pick. All Nyarko did in the nation’s capital was become one of United’s most important attacking players in 2016, chipping in four goals and eight assists in 26 league games.
Back in 2014, the Fire apparently decided that Chris Rolfe had outlived his usefulness in the the Windy City, and traded the forward to United early on in the campaign for allocation money. All Rolfe did from there was score 16 goals and assist on 10 others in 2014 and 2015. Nyarko’s United career got off to a similar start, as the veteran winger fit seamlessly into manager’s Ben Olsen’s system.
Nyarko’s season did get off to a slow start, as he only played 45 minutes in the league opener against the LA Galaxy, coming off at halftime due to a concussion. Nyarko missed the game the next week against the New England Revolution, but was quickly back in action against the Colorado Rapids. Nyarko then scored goals against the San Jose Earthquakes, Chicago Fire, and New York Red Bulls, a game in which he also added an assist in a 2-0 victory.
But in the dying moments of a 1-0 loss to the Philadelphia Union on May 20th, just before the Union netted their winning goal, Nyarko was punched in the back of the head as keeper Travis Worra attempted to clear out a cross. That concussion was more worrisome for Nyarko, and the former Virginia Tech forward missed almost two months, six league games, while recovering from the injury. His absence came at the leanest time for United, as they found the back of the net just four times in those six games.
But once Nyarko returned, a time which coincided with the addition of Patrick Mullins and Lloyd Sam, United’s fortunes in 2016 changed drastically, as the team would score at least one goal in every game to finish the season, losing just three of the final 16 contests.
Though Nyarko would only score just one more time in 2016, equaling his career high of four goals, the winger would add seven assists after his return from injury, in which he played in 15 of the team’s final 16 games. Nyarko, Sam, Mullins, and playmaker Luciano Acosta quickly learned how to operate within Olsen’s new formation, and Nyarko shined just as bright as the others, helping United turn their season around, finishing fourth in the Eastern Conference as the fifth highest scoring team in the league.
Nyarko turns 31 in January, but showed no signs of age as the season wore down in 2016. Concussions will be a cause for concern for the winger, and he has admittedly struggled with several throughout the course of his career, including the two in 2016. But Nyarko figures to enter 2017 in Olsen’s plans, with his ability to help United going forward and defensively equally.