KISSIMMEE, Fla. – Dominic Oduro just wants to play, whether that's up top or on the flank. And in Columbus, it seems that opportunity will come as a right-sided midfielder – at least for the time being.
After making his Crew debut last Saturday in a 1-0 victory against Toronto FC at the Disney Pro Soccer Classic, Oduro played his second straight game on the flank for head coach Robert Warzycha in a second-half cameo vs. the Union on Wednesday. It's a position not unfamiliar to the Ghanaian, who arrived on Feb. 4 via trade from the Fire and split time between the midfield and forward line during his time with Chicago.
“I’m comfortable," Oduro told MLSsoccer.com. "I want to be out there playing and using my talent, my speed. Obviously, I’m playing on the wing right now, which is something that I used to do when I was in Chicago. It’s nothing new to me. I know it’s a new team and we’re trying to learn each other’s movement, but it’s getting there.”
After Columbus' second team jumped out to 4-0 lead through 60 minutes, Oduro and the rest of the Crew first teamers kept up the pressure on the Union but couldn't find the back of the net. It wasn't for lack of trying, though, and Oduro, in particular, showed an ability to create chances for others, slipping Federico Higuaín in on goal with a well-measured diagonal ball and finding Jairo Arrieta with a pinpoint cross to give the Costa Rican a 1-v-1 opportunity.
Neither player was able to finish, but it's clear Oduro's value won't just come as a speed threat, especially as his teammates familiarize themselves with his tendencies – and vice versa.
“Obviously, he’s an important player – very fast, very skillful. It’s great that we have him right now on the flank," Arrieta said, with assistant coach Ricardo Iribarren translating. "I’m trying to understand his movement so I can take advantage of his play and get more opportunities to score more often.”
Warzycha's satisfied with his newest attacking toy as well, emphasizing that Oduro's current home is in the midfield but that the staff won't hesitate to experiment in order to find the best combinations on the field.
It won't be easy for the 27-year-old to dislodge Arrieta from his place atop the formation, but he's finding other ways to contribute apart from his trademark runs behind the defense.
“He’s doing great. I think he’s using his speed not only on offense but also using his speed on defense, being in the right spots and pressuring the player the right way," Warzycha said. "I’m happy to have him.”
Oduro's happy to do the defensive work required on the flank, as well, and it's clear his chances to contribute in front of net will come eventually, especially once he and Higuain spend few more training sessions together working out the timing required to spring him behind backlines focused on stopping the Argentine and Arrieta, who formed an immediate connection after arriving during 2012.
“It’s going to be fantastic. Those guys are quality guys," Oduro said. "If [Federico] gets his head up, you know he’s going to put the ball right there. You just have to make that run. I’m still trying to learn from him with that, so it’s going to be a work in progress.”
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- Robert Warzycha