Three days following his storming return to match action with an assist in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, Patrick Nyarko capped off a memorable week with a game-tying goal against the Houston Dynamo Friday night.
With two impactful cameos off the bench, the Kumasi, Ghana native returned following a nine-month layoff resulting from an ACL tear/MCL sprain sustained at D.C. United on Oct. 18, 2014. The 29-year-old dedicated his goal to his grandmother, who passed away in Nyarko's native country, in a heartfelt post-match message.
"First of all, I dedicate this to my grandmother. She’s being buried tomorrow, so rest in peace," Nyarko said. "I’m proud. I’m proud of the guys. I think we found something special at the end of the game. How we reacted after we gave up the goal is how we need to play every game. The guys realize that.
"I’m glad I was able to help, but kudos to the guys, they came out fighting and they know now this is what it takes to win games in this league. Every single game, this is what it will take to win it."
The Ghanaian's 72nd-minute tally at BBVA Compass Stadium was his first in the regular season since May 10, 2014 against the New York Red Bulls. This time around the sequence began with a dexterous ball from Harry Shipp to Mike Magee, which made its way to Greg Cochrane, whose cross exposed the Dynamo defense and found the onrushing Nyarko. The midfielder emerged from the goalmouth skirmish and turned the ball into the back of the net, helping the Fire secure just their third road point of the campaign and help quash the threat of a fifth league defeat on the trot.
"It’s special," Shipp added. "I’ve never had to go through an injury recovery process like that, fortunately. Just seeing him every day - kind of the ups and downs with his emotions and his attitude - and to finally come back, be playing well and making a difference is something you hope for during those last six months of recovery."
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Shipp, along with head coach Frank Yallop, sang the praises of Nyarko's play in the dressing room, and rightly so. In a game in which chances were few and far between, Nyarko and Magee's second half introductions paid dividends, as the duo provided a different dimension to Yallop's team.
Asked if the 1-1 draw could be a turning point in a transitional season thus far, Nyarko is certainly optimistic about the group with 18 games remaining in league play, and three wins shy of reaching a seventh all-time U.S. Open Cup final to boot.
"I hope so," Nyarko said. "It’s been a difficult season with injuries; one person comes up, one person goes down. I’m really excited to get everyone back to see how the depth that we’ve been talking about and how we’re going to coexist. I think it’s going to be great. I’m curious and excited to see everyone healthy and us coming back in the second part of the season."