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Fire lock up Nyarko

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Fire lock up Nyarko

The Fire, in keeping with the general policies of Major League Soccer, gave little in the way of details when it comes to players contracts. Theres no missing the significance of Thursdays re-signing of forward Patrick Nyarko, however.

Nyarko, 26, has become a Fire mainstay and the club was determined to keep him. Nyarko said the new contract covered two seasons with an option for a third.

"Hopefully itll be for a lot more than that, said Nyarko. "Its a good deal, and I like the organization. There wasnt any doubt that we would come to an agreement. It was a question of when."

"Keeping Patrick with the Fire was a big goal of ours over the last year," said head coach Frank Klopas. "With his speed and ability to change pace, hes show to be one of the most threatening attackers in MLS over the last few years and is key to our attack."

Nyarko hasnt been much of a goal-scorer in his four-plus seasons in MLS. He had four of his seven in the 2009 season, but was a much more productive player in the two seasons after that. In 2010 and 2011 he combined for a team-leading 19 assists.

Hell play in his 100th MLS match in the Fires next game, April 15 vs. Houston at Toyota Park. Over the last four seasons hes played in 90 matches, more than any other Fire player.

"I just want to help this team get back to its winning tradition," said Nyarko. "The last couple years we got away from that a little bit. Now my immediate goal is to help us get into the playoffs."

Drafted as a forward, Nyarko was a first-round pick (seventh overall) in the 2008 MLS SuperDraft after getting 31 goals and 24 assists in 57 college games for Virginia Tech. In his early years with the Fire, though, he spent most of his playing time as a winger on both sides of the field.

That changed midway through last season when Klopas paired him with striker Dominic Oduro. Both players are from Ghana, and they had instant chemistry. Their productivity spurred the Fire to a 7-2-1 finish in the last 10 games of last season, which in turn created high expectations for this campaign.

"I had talked to him only four times before he came here," said Nyarko. "I had heard of him, but we really starting talking once I came into the league. As hard-working as he is, that helped us."

Nyarkos performance down the stretch with the Fire led to his getting his first callup to Ghanas national team, and he played 45 minutes in a 1-1 draw with Chile in a Feb. 29 friendly in Chester, Pa. He hopes thats not the end to his time with his national team.

"That call was a little unexpected, but it worked out," he said. "It was a good experience, and Im hoping for more callups but that team is getting a new coach. The old one was fired, and well have to wait until a new coach settles in."

Be sure to check out highlights of Patrick Nyarko over at the official website of the Fire.

Tarik Cohen was NFL's best big-play RB in 2017

Tarik Cohen was NFL's best big-play RB in 2017

Tarik Cohen's rookie season with the Chicago Bears was an impressive blend of running, receiving and special teams play. He quickly became a household name. The combination of his diminutive frame and oversized personality made him a fan favorite, especially when he started gaining yards in chunks.

In fact, of all running backs with a minimum of 80 carries last season, Cohen had the highest percentage of runs that were 15 or more yards, according to Pro Football Focus.

Cohen will have a big role in new coach Matt Nagy's offense this season because of everything he offers a play-caller. He's a weapon as a receiver out of the backfield and can chew up yards on the ground like any traditional running back. He's a hold-your-breath talent who can turn a bad play into a touchdown in the blink of an eye.

Cohen had 370 rushing yards, 353 receiving yards and three offensive touchdowns in what can be described as a limited role last year. John Fox and Dowell Loggains didn't seem to ever figure out how to best use Cohen's skill set. That should be no issue for Nagy and Mark Helfrich, the team's new offensive coordinator, who both bring a creative offensive approach to Chicago.

Jordan Howard will be the starter and will do most of the heavy lifting. But Cohen is going to have a much bigger role than he had as a rookie, and that should result in more big plays and points on the board.

94 Days to Kickoff: Kaneland

94 Days to Kickoff: Kaneland

NBCSportsChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O'Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting July 30, we'll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 24.

School: Kaneland

Head coach: Pat Ryan

Assistant coaches: Mike Thorgesen, Ryan Gierke, John Pavlak, Drew Sterkel, Matt Smith, Zack Martinelli, Ryan Noel, Mike Lotz, Anthony Mastropieri, Trevor McKeown and Alec Aurelio

How they fared in 2017: 7-4 (3-1 Northern Illinois Big 12 East Conference). The Knights made the Class 5A state playoff field. They defeated Lindblom, then lost to Sterling in second round action. 

2018 Regular Season Schedule:

Aug. 24 @ Hinsdale South 

Aug. 31 vs Geneva 

Sept. 7 vs Rich Central 

Sept. 14 @ Sterling 

Sept. 21 vs DeKalb 

Sept. 28 @ Sycamore 

Oct. 5 @ Yorkville 

Oct. 12 vs Morris 

Oct. 19 vs Rochelle

[MORE: 95 Days to Kickoff - Waubonsie Valley]

Biggest storyline: Will the Knights leave their mark in the last season of the Northern Illinois Big 12 East conference?

Names to watch this season: RB Jonathan Alstott and OL/DL Drew Hahn.
 
Biggest holes to fill: The Knights will need to reload in a few key spots, especially at QB and on the O-line; however, they bring back a nice core of 11 returning starters (five offense, six defense).

EDGY's Early Take: The Knights are still in search of a new conference to call home after the 2018 season. The Northern Illinois Big 12 is in its last season under its current form. This year's Knights have a chance to get back to the state playoff field. The schedule is very tough, but this team will challenge every single week come August.