Dominic Oduro: Chicago’s Odd Man Out?
Where (if anywhere) will forward Dominic Oduro fit in with Chicago Fire in 2013?
Chicago fans are all too familiar with the self-proclaimed “Mr. Freaky Fast.” The man from Ghana with the million-dollar smile. The striker who all but disappeared in 2012. And while the Fire’s 2011 MVP and Golden Boot winner provided fans with plenty of thrills (as well as enjoyable promo spots) in the past, it’s unlikely Fire Nation will see much of Dominic Oduro in 2013. Unless he can re-discover his 2011 form, the recent acquisitions of Maicon Santos and Joel Lindpere will likely drive Oduro further down the depth chart and anchor the Ghanaian striker firmly to the place he doesn’t want to be: the bench.
If Dominic Oduro is to stay with the Fire, how will he react to (presumably) being #4 on the forward depth chart? With the arrival of Lindpere (and the promise he’ll play centrally), Chris Rolfe should move up top where he belongs. If manager Frank Klopas decides to deviate from his norm and go with a 4-4-2 tactical formation, this still leaves Oduro (again, presumably) on the bench with Santos. And in the Gaffer’s ‘ol standby 4-3-2-1, the likelihood of Oduro getting minutes up top further decreases, as Santos would likely spill Sherjill MacDonald as the lone striker.
At the same time though, there are perhaps other options for the Dommer. Maybe he’d be amenable to playing on the wing? Such a move (if effective), would likely allow him more minutes with the Fire in 2013 – especially now that El Flaco will likely go party with the sheiks in Qatar (give us that #QatariLikeMoney). But, is a position switch for Oduro likely, or even possible?
Tweed Thornton, writer for Hot Time in Old Town, seems to think that “Oduro has been very effective on the wing in the past,” while our own Rob Thompson believes the Ghanaian striker, despite his ability to create space with his speed, “needs more technique to breakdown defenses to be effective.”
As for me, I’m torn. On one hand, Oduro has shown signs of effectiveness in (very) limited action on the wing. Plus, as our man Stephen Mangat so eloquently puts it, “Although Oduro can be very sloppy at times, I have seen him absolutely eviscerate defenses on multiple occasions. When he’s at his best, he’s simply unplayable and opponents are at his mercy for sustained periods of games. Unfortunately, his sloppy finishing results in him scoring one goal when he should have two or three, and zero goals when he should have one.”
Stephen goes on: “Oduro is very much a one-dimensional player that relies on his speed, yet he is so fast that he is one of the few players in the league who can survive by relying on one attribute alone. In fact, is there anyone else in the league who, at the same time, is as technically limited and dangerous?”
And finally, Mangat adds: “In a way, Oduro reminds me of Mac Kandji: he’s a physical presence who can take over games, yet is often let down by his [lack of] skill. Kandji was super inconsistent with NYRB, but seems to have found his spot in Houston. [Mac’s] still frustrating to watch, but he works harder than he did in NY, and since he’s not the main goalscorer, he’s far less annoying when he misses. Basically, [Dominic] Kinnear put Kandji in a place where he does what he does best – run around, take dudes on, and cause problems with his strength and speed. Could Klopas do the same with Oduro?”
Maybe. But all that said, my gut tells me that ultimately, Rob is right. Except as a change of pace sub, I just don’t see Oduro on the wing. But what do I know? Perhaps the Dommer’s got it in him to learn and excel at a new position. But here’s the rub: as far as opponents are concerned, the jig may be up on Dominic Oduro.
Tactically, opposing managers assign a defensive midfielder to slow Oduro’s runs on the counterattack, which usually creates enough time for the central defense to get back into position and neutralize him. And even if Dom gets clear in the final third (with defenders racing backward to keep pace) his tunnel vision and poor technique prevent him from either making a timely pass to an attacking teammate, or putting the ball in the back of the net – which is what he gets paid to do.
Despite his performance with Chicago during the 2011 season (which, I’m afraid, will prove a fluke), Houston Dynamo knew they had a one-trick pony in Oduro when they traded him for forward Calen Carr. And while 2011 had Fire Nation convinced they came out on the right side of the deal, I’m afraid 2012 proved Dominic Kinnear and the Houston technical staff correct.
Based on Oduro’s 2012 performance, it appears MLS teams figured out how to neutralize Chicago’s speedster. Dom’s pace no longer compensates for his limited ball skills and marginal soccer I.Q. To be fair however, Frank Klopas’s 4-2-3-1 does the Dommer no favors. He’s more effective in a 4-4-2 or 4-3-3. Aside from Oduro’s woeful performances as a lone striker, Stephen’s Mac Kandji analogy provides further proof. Unless Klopas radically changes his formation, Oduro’s efficacy as a member of Chicago Fire will remain limited at best.
Let’s look at some stats, shall we? Here’s the line on Dominic Oduro during his two seasons with Chicago Fire:
The numbers don’t lie. The proof is in the Goals Per 90 Minutes and Scoring Chance Percentage pudding. There is a statistically significant drop-off from 2011 to 2012 in both categories for Oduro.
Plus, looking at the roster now (assuming Chicago will replace El Flaco, get a reserve winger, and shore up the back line…I know, that’s quite an assumption, but humor me for the moment), depending upon the opponent, as well as the health of his teammates, Dominic Oduro may not even make the Chicago Fire 18 at times in 2013. And if we are to take the player at his word, this will not stand.
A couple of months ago, when the Men in Red were cleaning out their lockers after an ignominious exit from the 2012 MLS playoffs, Oduro expressed his frustration to mlssoccer.com beat writer Anthony Zilis: “I thought even before I lost my starting position, I was playing well, the team were playing well…Up until now, I’m still trying to figure out the reason why I got benched.”
Hmm. Well, between May 12th (Oduro’s fourth goal, scored during the ninth match of the season) and July 28th (Sherjill MacDonald’s debut) Dominic Oduro scored one goal in 12 matches. Uno. And at that point in the season, the squad was certainly not assured a playoff spot.
Moreover, after the arrival of Designated Player Sherjill MacDonald, the Dommer didn’t take too kindly to his new role. “I wasn’t comfortable coming in off the bench.”
And, in what may amount to Oduro’s coup de grâce: “If I believe I deserve to play, and I feel like I’m not being utilized the way it is, like I said, at the end, you’ve got to move on.” Well then. There you have it.
But, in the end though, it’s not really up to Oduro, is it? He is, after all, under contract with Chicago Fire for 2013. But perhaps most importantly, Dom needs to ask himself if there’s another MLS club out there that thinks he’s worth his $108k (approx) salary or, for that matter, whether he remains starting XI material. I’m skeptical.
But, perhaps there’s an anemic offense out there that could use Oduro’s speed up top, especially on turf. Portland and Vancouver (a club with two first-round draft picks at #s 5 & 10) come to mind. And while they don’t play on an artificial surface, Toronto and Chivas USA could certainly use any help they can get to breathe new life into their attack.
If Chicago could unload Oduro, perhaps they could do so to bolster their back line depth, for the departure of Dan Gargan to San Jose has the Men in Red looking quite thin at defense. And now, with the likely departure of Alvaro Fernandez to Qatar, the Fire need help on the wing as well.
So what should Chicago Fire do with Dominic Oduro?
1) Get rid of him (hard).
2) Convince him to embrace his role as a bench player (harder).
3) Convert him to a winger (hardest).
I sure hope the Klopas/Leon/Petrei triumvirate has a plan. Because if not, barring injuries, Chicago Fire will likely have some expensive weight to bear on its bench in the form of one Dominic Oduro.
Hey Vancouver, how about your #10 draft pick for Oduro, straight up? Let’s make a deal and “pop the Dom!”