The Chicago Fire may have lost 5-1 to the San Jose Earthquakes on Wednesday night, but the game was at least a landmark one for their lone scorer, Grant Ward.
Currently on loan from Tottenham Hotspur, the 19-year-old winger notched up his first MLS goal after coming on in the 59th minute, and is now looking forward to facing his parent club on Saturday, when Mauricio Pochettino’s side play the Fire in the third fixture of their North American tour.
‘I think it should be a good experience,’ he said. ‘I’ll get to see a few familiar faces and it’s a way to impress the new manager. I’ll just try my best and see what happens.’
Having originally joined the Fire in January for a two-week pre-season trial, Ward duly impressed head coach Frank Yallop enough to earn a loan switch to the MLS side in March, despite fracturing his metatarsal before completing the move.
Recovering back in England, he returned to the club two months later to go on to make five starts in nine league appearances since, scoring his first professional goal in a US Open Cup tie, with his bright form seeing the planned six-month spell extended in June through to the end of the 2014 season.
A member of Totenham’s academy since 2011, the opportunity to earn valuable top-flight minutes overseas could turn out to prove a wise move on Ward’s part, as he bids to set himself apart from the club’s other prospects in impressing the new coaching staff at the club.
Fellow Spurs youth product and now-Derby County midfielder Simon Dawkins made a similar move to the San Jose Earthquakes in 2012 and, though he failed to make the break into the first team in North London, his two-season spell in the States did see his game grow a great deal.
Ward hasn’t quite set the league alight as Dawkins did during his US stint but, as a skilled and talented youngster who is still growing his game, there is certainly much more to come from him.