Forgive Fire defender Patrick Doody if, by the end of his first season in MLS, he’s still a little overwhelmed by the transition.
The 23-year-old is not exactly the new kid on the block anymore. But since inking his first professional contract as the club’s sixth Homegrown signing on Dec. 22, 2014, Doody – more than most of his teammates could attest to – has had to make the near-300 mile commute between St. Louis and Chicago more than he would have preferred.
"It was definitely more back-and-forth than I thought when I originally went to St. Louis," he said, "but that's a good thing."
Doody logged just 62 minutes for the Men in Red during preseason before being shipped out on loan to Saint Louis FC, the Fire’s USL affiliate. A mainstay at left back, Doody started in 18 games and recorded a team-high four assists, and became a fan favorite in no time - a supporter-themed Twitter account was created in his name.
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"I really enjoyed it, St. Louis was incredible," he added. "It was really helpful for me, but of course the end goal is always being [in Chicago]. Anytime I could be up here it's a good feeling."
Saint Louis missed out on the playoffs, but with match fitness gained week in and week out, consistent exposure and game repetition in the third tier kept the door open for the Fire technical staff to recall the Naperville native at any point.
“He’s done fine,” Fire interim coach Brian Bliss told reporters this week. “We’ve tracked him in St. Louis with some of the stuff that he’s done there. We’ve gotten some good reports from the coaches down there, and that’s a good story that he went and got some games there, and worked on his game, improved. I didn’t have any hesitations about dropping him in over there.”
Largely on the fringes for the first half of the regular season, Doody – a Fire Academy and PDL product – bided his time, driving to and fro before eventually debuting in a dramatic 1-0 win over Seattle Sounders FC on July 11. He also received the starting nod in the ensuing back-to-back defeats to Columbus Crew SC.
Doody has provided the Fire with a distinct style of play at left back in relief of Joevin Jones, whose international call-ups and a slight drop in form have presented the Indiana graduate with opportunities to shine. When the Fire take on the New England Revolution on Saturday at Toyota Park (7:30 p.m. CT; My50 Chicago), Jones could very well make his return, but Doody has proved his worth, and his performances have certainly not gone unnoticed.
"Looking at the road and looking at where Joevin’s been the last four or five weeks, I thought we needed a little more concentration on the defensive side of things rather than the attacking side," Bliss said. "I think Doody gave us that in spades; he battled and battled. He shut some guys down over there and stopped some crosses from coming in. He was holding that down pretty well. I commend him for that because it’s not easy to be thrown into that. He did well.
“After he’s [Jones] come back from the Gold Cup, it’s no secret; he hasn’t been in his top form like he was prior to when he went to the Gold Cup. I figured I’d try to give him a break, and put him into the lineup as a sub maybe in a couple other places where we know he can play just to see if he could find a little bit of form and find his game. … I would think somewhere along the line in these last three games, you’ll probably see him back at left back doing what he was capable of doing the first half of the season."