2014 started with a bang for everyone involved with the Columbus Crew... everyone except Dominic Oduro. The Ghanaian earned his nickname Freaky Fast in his Crew debut, going box to box for his first goal in the Black and Gold, but there was no such luck this season.
As the Crew opened their new era with a 3-0 road win over D.C. United, Oduro watched from Columbus after receiving a 90th minute red card in the final game of the 2013 regular season.
"I wanted to be out there, but I made a bad decision last game and that's the price I have to pay for it, and I did," Oduro said. "I think it's the price I'm paying right now especially because the guys did a great job and it's up to me right now to try as much as possible to be part of the success."
The D.C. win was the first missed game for Oduro since beginning his tenure with the club. After starting every game of 2013, Dom is eager to kick off his season.
"I'm all nerves. I'm all juiced up. I'm all ready, I can't wait. Since preseason I've been preparing for this game knowing I couldn't play the game against D.C.
"This is my chance to come back and be a part of the team and help the team with what we're trying to do. I'm excited; this weekend can't come soon enough."
In his first season with the Crew, Oduro finished with a career-high and team-leading 13 goals and tied for second with four assists. New Head Coach Gregg Berhalter has instituted a new style of play that emphasizes possession in the attack, something that should help Oduro reach those heights again.
"The philosophy that the coaches want us to do is also great and the great part is, we have really embraced it in such a way," he said. "You would think it would take us a long to adjust and it has taken us this small period of time to just basically embrace what [Gregg] is teaching us. You saw it on the field and you saw it in the last game. So that's one very positive thing we want to take out of this."
Oduro is not under the impression that this team is running on all cylinders yet, but will be happy to be a part of it as they develop. As Berhalter pointed out, this is a long season and Dominic can play a big role.
"We know Dom is going to be on the field helping this team so it's just a matter of where and when," he said. "I think the team's been going good so far, it's been a good balance and we have to find the right way to work Dom into, but he has a big role to play with this group and we'll see how it unfolds."
After a big season-opening win, it would be difficult to alter the lineup too much and that may be part of Oduro's punishment for the red card. Last season, Dom played forward or on the right of midfield for the Crew, yet both of those positions looked good in week one.
Jairo Arrieta finished a one-time opportunity to put the Crew up 1-0 on a play started by winger Hector Jimenez. If Oduro wants to find the pitch, he will likely have to go through one of those players.
"It was a little bit frustrating for me personally, but at the end of the day too I was really excited for the guys. They really did a great job for what preseason we worked on they went out there to execute," he said.
Ultimately, soccer is a team game and it is about getting results. Having not made the MLS Cup Playoffs since 2011, the Crew is looking for production and that's something Oduro can generate.
Whether it is a starting role or not for Oduro on Saturday, as the Black and Gold welcome the Philadelphia Union to town for the home opener, Mr. Fast will be on the pitch. After a longer than normal offseason, this is all Dominic can ask for.