Igboananike settling in with Fire

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Kennedy Igboananike has settled in after a slow start with the Fire. | Noah K. Murray, USA TODAY Sports

FIRE AT D.C. UNITED, 6 P.M. WEDNESDAY, CSN+

While David Accam and Shaun Maloney were beginning to establish themselves with the Fire, fellow Designated Player Kennedy Igboananike couldn’t crack the starting lineup.

Igboananike would get some minutes here or there, but only late in matches as he struggled with his new club in a new country.

Judging by recent performances, Igboananike is finally fitting in with the Fire (4-5-2, 14 points).

After only two starts in the first eight matches, Igboananike has started the last three and has shown why he was the first DP signed in the offseason. He has used his speed and effort to disrupt opponents, and he was rewarded with his first goal and assist in a 3-0 win last Saturday against visiting Montreal.

“I haven’t played my best game yet,” Igboananike said Saturday. “I think more is about to come. [I’m] just starting to get used to the players and getting used to everything around me, so I think I’m getting better and better every day.”

That’s welcome news for the Fire, who visit D.C. United (7-3-4, 25 points) on Wednesday. Maloney will be with Scotland for the next three matches and Accam soon will be joining Ghana, leaving Igboananike to help lead the offense.

“It’s always difficult for anybody to come and settle in any environment and I think he’s probably the last of the three DP’s, if you’d like to name them, to settle in and start to feel comfortable,” coach Frank Yallop said Saturday.

“I thought he played well in Columbus, he played well [against Montreal] and could’ve scored three. He had a couple of breaks where he couldn’t lift it over the keeper and the keeper made good saves, but it’s nice to see him score. He’s feeling good about himself.”

A productive Igboananike could relieve some of the pressure Mike Magee (hip, knee surgery) feels to expedite his return. Just a few weeks ago when the forwards weren’t scoring, it seemed like only the return of the former MVP would help.

After waiting for his chance, Igboananike might prove to be a viable alternative.

“Of course, you have to be a professional, so that is what I am,” Igboananike said. “Any time they give me the opportunity to play, I go in and do my best. The coaches decided best who goes on the pitch and play, so anytime they give me the chance, I’ll play.”

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