BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- There is no dispute that Ghanaian forward Dominic Oduro is currently the Chicago Fire's hottest offensive threat.
While Chicago has struggled in the scoring column, Oduro has netted four of his five goals over the Fire's past nine matches (Chicago only has seven goals during this stretch). Oduro is tied for the team scoring lead with midfielder Marco Pappa, and Oduro's goal total also equals a season high.
But there lies a dichotomy in that Oduro's scoring rate could -- or should -- be better. Oduro tallied Chicago's lone goal during a 1-1 road draw against Chivas USA last weekend. But Oduro created multiple chances during the first half where he could have added to the Fire's early lead.
"I will guarantee that I'm going to get chances and try as much as possible to get the ball on frame," Oduro said. "It's better for me to get the ball in the right spot, or hopefully for a rebound for one of our midfielders to get the ball into the net. I was beating myself up about that [after the Chivas game]."
Earlier this year, the Fire sent forward Calen Carr to the Houston Dynamo in exchange for the 25-year-old Oduro. Carr has missed the entire season with a concussion injury. Oduro, on the other hand, has increasingly become an effective presence in the offensive third.
"This team has been good to me," Oduro said. "I think I've literally found my mojo over here."
It certainly has been a different setting than Oduro's predecessor. Oduro opened the 2011 season in Houston, but his Dynamo tenure came to an abrupt halt after the team's home opener against the Philadelphia Union. It was during that 1-0 loss on March 19 when Oduro missed a gift of a scoring opportunity in the 68th minute -- a potential tap-in goal that sailed well over the crossbar.
Houston shipped Oduro to Chicago, and he has not looked back.
"It came to me as a surprise," Oduro said. "But that's history right now. Houston is in the past. Right now I'm with the Chicago Fire and that's what I want to concentrate on. I just want to help my team get to the next level."
Oduro's speed is uncanny, and he has worked tremendously hard to make that his weapon on the pitch. During his time with FC Dallas, Oduro trained with four-time Olympic gold medalist and U.S. sprinter Michael Johnson to fine-tune his stride.
So any MLS defense knows that it cannot completely shut down Oduro's opportunities. His quickness sooner or later will create some chances.
"My speed helps me out during the game, and I've been working on it," Oduro said. "It's a gift and a talent, and I just thank God for giving me that talent. I'm using it to my best abilities, as far as I know."
Now that Pappa has been back with the team following his Guatemalan national team duty during the CONCACAF Gold Cup, Oduro has moved out of the midfield and up front where he is more comfortable.
"He creates problems for any team when you play him on top," Fire interim head coach Frank Klopas said. "The threat is for him to get behind [the defense], but then with his pace, a team that doesn't play us high will give us a lot more room in the midfield where our players now have to find the game a lot more. He's a threat with his pace, and his work ethic is great. He makes very good runs. He's been a great addition."
"Playing up top is what I've been doing all my life," Oduro said. "I'm more comfortable up there. But I'll play anywhere on the field to help my team. That's my number one priority."
One natural fit for Oduro has been teaming up with fellow Ghanaian Patrick Nyarko. Nyarko, who led the Fire in assists last season with 10, made the transition to the midfield a couple seasons back. There is potential in this becoming a regularly effective playmaker-attacker tandem.
"We carpool together, so we talk all the time," Oduro said. "We talk on the field, off the field, when we're playing video games, during lunch. We have such a great understanding of when, where and how to play the ball. Patrick and I have a really good chemistry on the field."
As for Oduro's finishing, his misses tend to be amplified because he creates chances at close range. Like any attacking player, it is something that Oduro continues to refine.
"You work 100 mph and you have a split decision to make -- whether to put the ball on frame, whether to stop the ball and make a chip," Oduro said. "There's a whole lot of stuff going through your mind. But at the same time, you're just trying to run as fast as you can to try and beat that defender and get that ball in the net. Sometimes it goes your way, sometimes it doesn't.
"That's what I'm trying to work on," he said. "Practice makes perfect, and I believe I'm going to reap the results."