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Nyarko Part 1: Virginia Tech

Nyarko fully focused
Nyarko fully focused

Patrick Nyarko is good. If you’d been even remotely watching the Fire since he got here in 2008, you’d know that. After an injury shortened rookie season, something that was warned about in a few scouting reports, he’s become a solid first-teamer. And in recent years, he’s become one of the most important cogs in the wheel that is the Chicago Fire attack. Coming into the MLS 2008 SuperDraft, Patrick Nyarko was a highly touted prospect out of Virginia Tech. In fact, on a lot of people’s draft boards and in their mock drafts, he was ranked as the #1 draft pick overall. However because of multiple factors, he fell all the way to #7 and in to the lap of recently hired Technical Director Frank Klopas. But his odyssey doesn’t stop there. In the first part of this three part series, we take a look at his college career and take a glimpse into SuperDraft 2008.

Found on a recruiting trip to Africa by Oliver Wiss, head man at Virginia Tech, Patrick Nyarko was signed to a scholarship. However, as he revealed to’s Jeff Crandall, soccer stardom was never his prime objective.

Education has always been important to Patrick Nyarko.

Growing up in Kumasi, Ghana, his father Dominic instilled the importance of academics in the Fire striker from a young age. Every step made in his soccer-playing career has been in concert with what was best for him in the educational route.

Found by chance on a recruiting trip to Africa by Virginia Tech head coach Oliver Weiss, Nyarko's scholarship offer to play for the Hokies in 2005 was contingent by his father on making sure education remained a focal point in his life. "It was the main priority even before I came to the United States," said Nyarko. "Knowing how important education is in Ghana, my dad was going to make me go to the U.S. even if I didn't get a soccer scholarship. He wouldn't let me branch out or do anything else until I got my education."

In his Freshman year, Patrick Nyarko hit the ground running. In 15 matches, he scored 8 goals and 6 assists. He was the ACC Freshman of the year, and was on the College Soccer News and Soccer America All Freshman first team, named Atlantic Coast Conference Freshman of the Year, and he was named to the All-ACC first-team. A tremendous gathering of accomplishments, to be sure, but he didn’t stop raking in accolades; his next two years were as productive as his first.

His sophomore year was what put him on the MLS Radar. In 20 appearances, he netted an impressive 16 goals, and set players up for 8 goals. That’s elite level scoring from the future Ghanaian International. His attention was now national. Something interesting, and as his pro career went on, slightly ironic as Pro Player Pipeline stated in their 2007 scouting report:

"He has exceptional speed and skill. At that time, Nyarko was gasping for air early in the 2nd half. He reminds me of Dom Oduro (FCD), but a little smaller and significantly more spindly. VT only scored when Nyarko was on the field."

However, the scouting report writer, Joe Mauceri had doubts about his fitness: "He is a terror when on the field. The problem is getting him on the field – because of injury and/or fitness. In the spring of 2007, he’s out because of injury, again. He has a world of talent. I will be watching his minutes this year. If he can stay in shape and healthy, he’s a potential first round pick, even as youth international." And this was in 2007.

His Junior (and ultimately final year in college) numbers weren’t as visually impressive as his numbers the year previous, though. He scored 7 times in 22 appearances, with 10 assists. But they were nonetheless impressive enough to get him a nomination for the MAC Hermann Trophy; the soccer equivalent of the Heisman. He also was a First Team NSCAA/Adidas All American. And then he made the decision to go pro.

He gave an interview at the time with Mark Berman of The Roanoke Times about his decision.

"I felt this was the time," Nyarko said Monday from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where he is participating in a four-day MLS combine that concludes today. "Anything could happen; there could be injuries [if he came back to Tech]. I figured since I had a good year, it was time for me to take up the next challenge.

"It was a hard decision, leaving Tech and my teammates. ... I'm really excited about a new challenge."

Going into the draft, on most big boards and mock drafts, Patrick was ranked the number one overall pick. This would have placed him in Kansas City. However, there were questions that were late in coming right before draft day. He had surgery to repair his gums right before the combine, and at the combine, he reportedly didn’t play well.

But draft day was upon us, and there was no going back. Instead of Nyarko, The KC Wiz selected Chance Myers from UCLA, while Brek Shea was selected by FC Dallas. RSL took Tony Beltran at 4, while Team Beckham took Sean Franklin. Picks 5 and 6 were Cairan O’Brian and Andy Iro. They went to Colorado and Columbus, respectively. Then at Number 7, The Chicago Fire were on the clock, and this happened:

(Video Uploaded by cycloneben)